Heather Moore and Megan Craig are the minds and hearts behind the popular Foster Talk blog series on fostercare.com – offering real-world advice on foster parenting based on their experiences as foster parents and an agency caseworker.
When Healing Magazine asked them to map out “a typical day” in foster care, they quickly pointed out that a “typical day” doesn’t exist; every day in foster care brings unique challenges and rewarding moments. So they agreed to present what’s generally involved in a potential foster care placement situation from the agency and parent perspective…
When you sign up to become a foster family, you quickly learn how a single phone call can change your life. Dramatics aside, quite literally answering a phone call at any point during your day can instantly take set plans, routines, and family dynamics and send them all for a spin.
Our day officially begins around 7 am. We kiss Daddy goodbye as he leaves for work, and I have breakfast together at the table with my two daughters, ages 3 and 6. Once my oldest is off to school, I get my youngest settled in with a craft and TV show and I start painting our front hallway…
Then, The Phone Rings….
9 am – I miss the original call while cleaning up from the painting. I see I have a call and I listen to voicemail – it’s KidsPeace, they have a referral, can I please call them back? I text my husband that we got a referral and I would call him in five minutes.
9:10 am – I call the office back. They explain to me that it is a newborn baby boy, being discharged from the hospital, little information but no major medical needs. I say yes, but need to confirm with my husband. I hang up with KidsPeace, race to call my husband and blurt out all the information. He confirms my initial instinct and I call KidsPeace back.
9:12 am – I inform KidsPeace we could be a resource. They tell me that two other families have also confirmed, and that they would call me back once they hear from the county.
9:30 am – I try to go about my set plans and pack up my daughter as we head to a meeting at our church. My head is spinning thinking about a newborn potentially arriving in hours and all the laundry to wash, bottles to clean, formula to buy…
10 am – KidsPeace calls back. The county placed the baby boy with another family. I text my husband. We exchange some sentiments of disappointment, some of relief, and we move on with our day.
11 am– I am gathering all my items after the meeting, and hear my phone buzz. It’s KidsPeace, again. I answer it. They have another referral! A DIFFERENT baby boy, this time 3 months old being discharged from the hospital after a few days of being observed after his removal from home. He has brothers who would be placed in a different home. I said yes (this time without calling my husband).
11:30 am– After a quick stop at the grocery store for diapers and formula, my daughter and I go home to sift through the bins of clothes in the basement that we have collected for emergency placements. We start laundry of baby blankets, crib sheets, clothes, and burp cloths. We find and wash our bottles that were stored in the pantry and pull down the travel cribs, baby swing, and car seats from the attic. My husband makes plans to leave work early so he is home in time for the new arrival.
12:30 pm– KidsPeace calls back. The baby boy was placed with his brothers in a different home, but together. Disappointed, but happy they could be together, I begin to disassemble our house full of baby items and go back to painting. I text my husband there is no need for him to leave work early.
FAST FORWARD TWO WEEKS
10 am– Our family is on the shuttle at the airport as we excitedly anticipate a warm getaway for the long weekend.
Then, my phone rings…
It’s KidsPeace. That baby boy who was placed with his brothers was needing a new home due to an overwhelming amount of medical needs between the three of them. Were we still a resource? I place my phone on hold, explain the situation to the family, and we say yes as long as the county can wait until we return home.
10:15 am– Approaching security at the airport, KidsPeace confirms with the county that Monday, when we return, the baby boy would join our family. Done deal, enjoy your vacation.
When I came into work today I had a lengthy “to do” list to tackle, because the foster kids on my caseload have visits with biological parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents which requires a lot of coordination. I knew that I had to supervise a visit at 1 pm, and was hoping to get some treatment plans written and get caught up on my case notes and phone calls.
Then, The Phone Rings ….
8:30 am – On the line is a county worker with an emergency placement of a newborn baby boy who is being discharged from the hospital. The county states that there are no known medical needs
8:40 am – I review the referral with my coworkers. I call all the available families who have a stay-at-home parent, and wait to hear back.
9:40 am – I have heard back from all of the families and call with county with a list of our available families and send over their profiles.
9:45 am – The county calls back: one of our families was selected. We notify all the families of the news. I know that it is heartbreaking for the families not selected, but for the one that is selected their foster care journey begins.
10:50 am – A call comes from a different county worker with a referral for a 3-month-old baby boy who is being discharged from the hospital after being removed from his biological home. He has twin brothers who will be placed separately unless a home for all three boys is found. After talking to my coworkers we determine we do not have a home for all three boys, but can try to place the baby. I start calling foster families.
11:15 am – The county worker calls and is interested in our family and has no home for all three kids. The county says our family should go buy formula and should expect the baby at 4 pm.
12:30 pm – We get a call from the county that they have found a home for all three boys together. I call our family with the good news that the boys will be together but the sad news that they will not be getting a placement today.
1:00 pm – I supervised the visit between a foster child and their biological mother and father and paternal grandparents. It is clear that the biological family loves their child and it is sad that they are not able to overcome their own life challenges to have the child return to their care. It’s helpful that the foster mother has a great relationship with the biological family and brought them school work and pictures for them to take with them.
4:00 pm – I returned to the office to a stack of messages and my “to do” list from this morning. I decided to return the county worker phone calls first because they typically leave for the day by 4:30 pm, the check back with the foster parents who called with updates on the foster children and questions about services that the foster children need.
6:00 pm – I decided to end my day. I connected with all the county workers and foster parents who needed my support. As for the paperwork I planned to complete … well, I’ll tackle that tonight.