Your New Foster Placement: Surviving the First 30 Days

So. You have spent the last six months to a year waiting for your first foster placement. You have completed mountains of paperwork, answered personal questions, made maps and emergency plans, and passed background checks. At long last, you have received your certification! You are ready! In fact, MORE than ready, amIright?! I liken the immediate post-certification stage to that awkward phase after a first date … you know the one … where you sit and wait for the phone to ring! But what will your new foster placement be like? People ask me this question a LOT. So today I will shed some light on the realities of your first 30 days of your new foster placement.

First: Get the Basic Needs Met

Your new foster placement(s) may arrive with some clothing and comfort items. Chances are, though, that their belongings could be minimal, and need washed. If you have had some notice that you have kiddos on the way, that is great! You can prepare. All of our kids, however, arrived on few hours’ notice (you can read here about our first two foster placements, Mancub and Little Bean), so that is what we have grown accustomed to. If that is the case, call on friends and family to loan you some things. And for everything else, … there’s Target.

Understand the Many Appointments

The first 30 days are undoubtedly the busiest. And, to be perfectly candid, you will be living in a fishbowl for a while. Although we heard about all of this in our trainings, I was still caught off guard by the sheer volume of appointments we had at the beginning. Expect that you will be busy! Your specific situation may vary slightly, depending on your state, county and agency, but where we live, our experience was:

  • Within the first few days, visits will be set up with your child’s birth parent(s), and possible other relatives who request time with the child. The child will typically visit with their family several times a week for a few hours at the beginning of the case. Depending on your situation, your transportation worker or social worker may take the child to visits, or you will be responsible for transportation. We have experienced both.
  • Once a week, the social worker from your agency assigned to your family will visit your home.
  • Once a month, the social worker from your county’s CPS will visit your home.
  • Within the first 30 daysthe child needs to visit his/her pediatrician. If your child has specific health issues, it is possible that your social workers may request this to be done sooner.
  • Within the first few weeks, the court investigator will also make a home visit. (The court investigator is the CPS social worker tasked with making a recommendation to the court (judge) regarding the child’s case in the early stages.)
  • Within the first few weeks, you may also receive a home visit from a social worker employed by the child’s lawyer. 
  • Possible other appointments include, but are not limited to: an early intervention specialist (assesses the child’s needs for developmental and/or mental health services), therapy appointments, tutoring, and other various and sundry things that may arise in the case, like a paternity test.

Know That Your Kiddo Will Be Fragile

If you are at all like us, you may be completely smitten with your kiddo at first glance. If you are in this (foster care) for the right reasons, I think that feeling is perfectly natural! But it is unlikely your kiddo will return the sentiment in the early days of a new foster placement. Let me say that again: your kiddo may not be as happy to be in your home as you are to have them. This is not about you. This is because their world has just been rocked. Also, remember that no matter how safe and wonderful your home is, you are still a stranger to a scared child at this point. I will say this again: do not take this personally. I highly recommend Karyn Purvis’ book The Connected Child {affiliate link} as required reading for all foster parents.

Expect the Unexpected

There is no way to really prepare you for this, but Mr. Bean felt that this was an important point to add, and I agree! It is important for you to understand in advance that foster care is a fluid situation. Your social workers will do their very best to give you up-to-date, accurate information about your child’s case. However, things change and cases shift. Sometimes dramatically. Sometimes quickly. We have had short-term placements turn long, and long term placements turn short. This is what you signed up for. Make no mistake about it: this is hard, raw, messy, emotional stuff. So stay positive, take care of yourself and your parenting partner (if you have one), … but know that you have chosen a path riddled with emotional landmines. Which brings me to my next point …

Plan to Cut Yourself Some Slack for a While

The first 30 days of a new foster placement can be grueling. It is important for you to know that up front. Even if it goes against the grain of your regular (non-foster home) pattern of living, build some shortcuts into your life for now. For example, decide that paper plates will be fine for a while. Its OK! Give yourself permission. Perhaps you can opt out of a few activities for a little while. Also, I strongly recommend that foster parents invest in Amazon Prime, if you haven’t already. Make sure your friends and family understand what you have taken on, and why you may not be as accessible as you were prior to your new foster placement. 

Lastly, put a self-care plan in place before you get started. If you need some quick helps to get started, check out my post on self care. Take care of your mate. Take care of you. And of course, take care of that precious kiddo that you’ve been entrusted with. Because that fragile little soul needs the best that you can give at this critical juncture.

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