How often to you actively make yourself available to take in foster children? For instance,do you ever stay home/in town on the weekends just in case your case worker calls?
For us, specifically, this is kind of a complicated question. The answer isn’t always black and white.
There are really four classifications of foster parents: foster-to-adopt (which I’ll talk about on Day 25, so stay tuned!), traditional foster care (okay, not really a technical term, but it’s how I describe it), respite care, and emergency placement.
We fit in all four categories.
Traditional foster care (again, just a term I’m using), is when a foster child comes into our home for an indefinite amount of time. We organize child care and school and we make a somewhat permanent place in our home for a child. We are committing to caring for this child for as long as he or she needs.
Respite care is when a foster family needs child care for their foster child or children, as short as an afternoon, or for as long as a vacation. The licensing agency will call on potential respite families to find someone who is able to take the child for usually several days. A respite family must have an active foster license.
Emergency placement is exactly what it sounds like. Children are removed from a situation and need a place to go for the short term. This is the middle-of-the-night call. Or the can-you-keep-her-for-the-weekend call. Emergency placements are so important because they allow children to sleep in a safe bed in a safe place when they are taken from their home and are often frightened. This is sometimes the stepping stone to getting a child into a traditional foster home.
I’ve mentioned that our first traditional placement was twins. That meant that when they left, we had two beds, two car seats, two highchairs, etc. When we got our current placement, Little Man, as we call him, we still had an extra bed, car seat, and highchair. We asked to be put on the call list for weekend emergency calls. We aren’t able to get childcare at the drop of a hat, but we can certainly take in kids over the weekend when we are home. Our shortest emergency placement was just six hours long. She came at midnight one night and left at 6:00 the next morning. Our Little Man slept through the whole thing.
We often get these calls on Friday afternoon and we keep the children until the first thing Monday morning, to give us time to get to work. We don’t ever just “stay in town” to make sure we are there if/when the call comes. We would seriously be tied to our house 24/7 because there’s always a need. There’s always a call. However, we know when we have busy weekends on our calendar. If we get a call for that weekend, we often say no. There is always freedom to say, “This weekend isn’t going to work out for us.” It’s heartbreaking, and I feel like the worst person ever for saying that. Every. Single. Time. But there are weekends when it’s not best for our family or for our son. We really have to evaluate and ask, “Is my home in a place where I can bring in children and bring them comfort?” Sometimes the answer is “no” and that’s okay.
For instance, a few weekends ago, we got an emergency placement for two young boys. CUTE as buttons. They had so much fun playing with our little guy. And then our air conditioner broke. Quickly, the house got to be a miserable temperature inside and we all wished that our friend Stephen who works for an ac repair company in Houston would of tagged along with us… We were supposed to keep the two boys through Monday morning, but Sunday afternoon, I had to call their casework and ask that they be picked up and moved to another emergency placement. We were all hot, sweaty, and miserable. We knew that we’d get absolutely NO SLEEP that night as the temperature kept climbing. We only learned of the Hewitt Trade Services in Brisbane which could have saved our poor sweaty family until later. We felt like it was the best thing for the boys and for our family for them to be able to go somewhere else.
As a foster parent, you have all the freedom and control to determine what kind of placement you want your family to be. At first, we started out as just traditional foster family with the option to adopt, if it ever came up. Then we realized that we would likely have the option to take in weekend placements on a case-by-case basis. We are really thankful for these opportunities to open our home to children as needed.
So I tell these stories to say, no, we don’t necessarily make ourselves more or less available IF the call comes. The call WILL come. We just always try to be prepared.