As a foster parent or adoptive parent, you need as much information as possible up front — before you accept the placement to help you decide on whether you are a good match for this child and will be able to help this child heal once she is in your home. The foster care placement meeting is when you have the opportunity to get as much information as possible, and it helps to be prepared.
Parenting is a leap of faith under any circumstance. It’s especially so when accepting the placement of a child from foster care because these children will have had some significant life experiences before coming to your home. Some of these experiences will have been good, but many will have been traumatic and will have left scars and behaviors that you and the child will be dealing with in the future.
Each state handles foster care/adoption placements differently. Typically though, there will be a foster care placement meeting where the prospective foster or adoptive parents will meet with the child’s caseworker and other professionals who will decide whether to go forward with the placement. This meeting is an excellent opportunity to ask questions, but it helps to know what to ask. Print off this list of questions and take it with you to the meeting.
Yes, accepting the foster or adoptive placement of a child from foster care is a leap of faith, but remember, the truth is that all parenting is a leap of faith. Strive to get as much information at the foster care placement meeting as possible to help you make the best decision for yourself and this precious child.
Questions to ask at Foster Care Placement Meetings
- Ask to speak with current caregivers to understand the child’s current schedule and routines.
- Get a list of previous placements, how long they lasted, and why they disrupted.
- What prompted the termination of parental rights? Did either parent voluntarily surrender, and why? Try to get the psychiatric history of the birth parents.
- If adopting, why didn’t past foster parents adopt this child/children?
- Was the child exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy? A clear answer is often not available unless the child is young, and hospital records from birth are available. Still, you can get information on the birth mother’s lifestyle and habits to understand the possibilities better. Also, ask if the child’s siblings have shown evidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or prenatal drug exposure. Keep in mind that prenatal alcohol and drug exposure is prevalent for children in foster care.
- Does the child have siblings, and where are they now (adoption, relatives, residential care, etc.)? Why are they not being placed together?
- Where are the biological parents now? Are there relatives or extended family in the area near you? What is the expectation for ongoing contact with birth parents, siblings, or extended family?
- What type of relationship did this child have with birth parents?
- Does the child have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for school? Is the child struggling in school? What is his/her attitude toward school? What school did the child attend previously?
- Does the child make and maintain age-appropriate friends?
- Ask for a list of diagnoses, and what behavior may have led to the diagnosis.
- Who made the diagnosis? Foster parent? Pediatrician? School? Medical Specialist? Ask for the documentation.
- What kind of medication is the child on now, if any, and what medications has the child taken previously?
- Are there any current health or behavioral concerns or need for ongoing therapy?
- If the child has been in therapy, how long? What types or models of treatment have been used?
- Has or has this child ever had a diagnosis of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) or any ere type of attachment disorder? What has been done for this child to deal with this? (Therapy, holdings, play therapy, etc.)
- Has the child acted out sexually now or in the past? What type of behaviors, and when was the last time?
- Are there safety concerns with pets? Younger children?
- What kinds of hospitalization (including trips to the Emergency Room) has this child had? What tests were done? Ask for the documentation.
- How does this child perceive herself? Does the child understand adoption, and does she want to be adopted?
- If the child is not a member of your race/ethnicity, how does he feel about being a member of a family of a different race/ethnicity?
- Ask to see the child’s entire file, not just a summary. Arrange for a time that you can read through the file uninterrupted.
- Ask yourself: If this child were to get no better after placement in your home, could you handle his/her behaviors just as they are now?
Image credit: Sherif Salama Originally published in 2015; Updated in 2019