Sunday, April 13, 2014

What our placement calls are like

We said goodbye to Beetle on Saturday, his foster family home from their trip.  When people ask how the week was or if we enjoyed the time with him, I have to say that mostly we're happy we could do this for his foster family, but the week itself was hard.  Grueling.  He really, really wanted to be held 24/7, and not even in a carrier sometimes (which is usually my lifesaver).  However, I know deep down that the mundane moments of foster care have their own beauty, to hold a baby that needs us to make his life a little better.

As we wait for our next placement, and just said no to the call we got last week, I was thinking about placement calls.  First, the process is probably different everywhere, but our county changed recently.  Private agencies handle a large number of foster care cases, so they had them on a rotation of weeks: if it's your agency's week to be first in line, CPS calls them first, and they contact families.  If they don't have anyone, CPS goes to the next agency on the list.  While this is practical, it wasn't placing children necessarily with the best fit for a family, but the best family that the agency on call had.  They also used a shelter for a temporary place for kids, and so "emergency placements" aren't really common here.  Most agencies wouldn't call you after 11 pm, but just have the kids go to the shelter.

Now, CPS contacts on-call workers from all the agencies giving a profile of the child who was removed.  The agencies have a short amount of time to find their best placement options, then they have a conference call and decide the best among all the options.  They are also doing this at any hour, so the shelter will be much more rarely in use.

So, we're getting ready for our first 2 am call.  They say they aren't very common, but I'm not convinced.  I'm okay with being woken up, but I am a little concerned about making a good decision when I've just been woken up.  Also, comparing the one placement call we've gotten since this change and the placement calls before, the new system seems to have the pressure of time.  They've got to find someone quickly to make the conference call on time, so with our call last Wednesday, I barely got in a hello before I heard a string of information about the child, no time to find a pen.

I've been surprised at how I've responded to the calls.  When we have said no, I have said it pretty quickly and firmly.  I am usually an indecisive person, plus of course I want to say yes to every child, so this was not what I expected.  B was about to say yes to one placement when I told him to stop and ask the birth date.  Sure enough, though we were licensed 0-2, this child was almost 3, which at the time was older than Rhinoceros.  That's a line we decided not to cross.  I said no.

I have, however, felt bad about those words five minutes later and have to be talked down from calling back.  But each time, I think my gut reaction, which has been set on the parameters we've set for our family, had been correct.  It's so hard, though.

So far, I've made sure to consult B before saying yes, usually needing to call back.  We've decided that unless there's some aspect of the placement that we haven't discussed and decided on, and the placement isn't anything we've already ruled out for now (more than one child at a time, older than or very close to Rhinoceros' age, known violent behavior or history of sexual abuse), I will say yes without talking to B.  I know they want to find placements quickly, and I don't want to slow it down unnecessarily.  The changes in the placement process have happened to avoid kids being in limbo longer than they need to be, and I want to help with that as much as we can.


  1. Stick to your parameters! We learned the hard way saying yes when we shouldn't have. There is a reason you set them for your family. It was so hard and we ultimately had the children moved. It was a lesson learned within the first few months of us fostering. Placement has tried to push our "limits" and I kindly tell them no.

  2. Interesting. It's quite different here. No shelters. And we don't get the 2am phone calls unless we tell them we want them. I'm planning on a post in the future describing how this all works here. I'm glad you had that week with Beetle, even if it wasn't the easiest time.

  3. Talking to other foster parents in our state, it's even our county that was unique with its reliance on the shelter.

    Thank you for the encouragement about limits! It's so hard, especially when it doesn't sound outrageous and you know many other families have made it work. But we don't have to be "many other families," we need to be our family.