What to Expect in the First 30 Days of Your New Foster Placement

You have just 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! CONGRATULATIONS! You are now ready!

(NOTE: This is an update of my original post from March, 2017, on Today in Mrs. Bean’s Kitchen, entitled Your New Foster Placement: Surviving the First 30 Days.)

In my opinion, the “waiting” phase for foster parents is a lot like 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. Hopefully I can shed some light on the realities of the first 30 days of your new foster placement for you.

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. Most of our kids have arrived on few hours’ notice (you can read here about our first two foster placements, Mancub and Little Bean), so don’t sweat it if that happens. If that is the case, call on friends and family to loan you some things. And for everything else, … there’s Target.

* Sidenote: You might want to keep one object out of your washer, and here’s why. Smells are powerful triggers. Your new kiddo may need the “smell” of his or her last home to help get through the first days in yours. Even if it doesn’t smell good to you, they need that familiarity. We think this helped our Sweet Potato a lot in the early days.

The slogan "keep calm and go to Target" is set atop a filtered image of metal grocery carts.

Understand the Many Appointments

The first 30 days are the busiest days of your new foster placement. 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. So, expect that you will have a full calendar at the beginning of a placement! 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, your agency social worker will visit your home.
  • Once a month, your DSS or CPS social worker will visit your home.
  • Within the first 30 daysthe child needs to visit his/her pediatrician and dentist. If your child has specific health issues, it is possible that your social workers may request this to be done sooner. (We had lots of extra appointments for Tiny Princess because of weight concerns and her rough start.)
  • 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. Quite honestly, your kiddo may not be as happy to be in your home as you are to have them. 

Its Not About You

Don’t take this personally if this happens. Their world has just been rocked. 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 shortThis 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

As of this update, we have now been through this process four times. And it never gets easier. You just get stronger. So I will say that the first 30 days of a new foster placement are grueling. I feel like you should know that. 🙂 It is not rainbows and unicorns. 🙂 So, even if it goes against the grain of your regular (pre-foster home) pattern of living, plan to allow yourself some shortcuts 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. I even recommend writing them a letter. If you’d like to see an example, check out this post.

Lastly, put a self-care plan in place before you get started. This can’t wait. If you need some quick helps to get started, check out my post on self care. Take care of your mate. Have your date nights. Take care of you. Get that workout. 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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