Waiting for a Placement Can Be Frustrating
Suggestions from a Foster Parent

by Becky Burmester •

As a veteran foster parent (two decades and counting), I am familiar with licensed foster parents whose homes have remained empty. These foster parents frequently contact their social workers seeking placements, yet no children are placed in their homes.

They ask themselves: Why is this happening? There is supposed to be such a need for foster families. The other people in my MAPP class have foster children in their homes. What’s wrong with me and my family?

When time passes and no children are placed in your home, it’s normal to wonder why.

To people in this position, the first thing I would say is that placements are subjective. Agencies work with the foster parents that are easiest to work with most frequently. Placements must also meet the needs of the child. The foster parent’s need for a placement is secondary at best.

If you’ve been waiting for a placement a long time, look closely at the profile you have presented to your agency. What types of children, coming from what types of situations have you indicated that you could feel comfortable parenting? If you have real anger with birth families, you are unlikely to receive placements unless TPR has already occurred. If you want children of only a certain age or ethnicity and children dealing only with specific issues, placements may be few and far between.

What do you have to offer children, birth families, and your agency? Are you eager to work at shared parenting? Are you able to be non-judgmental of birth families? Are you flexible as to the type of child or children you will foster? If you already have children of your own, how carefully have you addressed the impact new kids will have? What about the impact of temporary new kids?

Foster parenting is really a rather strange vocation. The job description goes something like this: raise someone else’s children for as long as necessary, work closely with the parents to assist in the children being able to leave your home, identify needs the children have, bug other people to help get the needs met. If the children cannot return to the birth family, help them transition to permanency in your home or someone else’s home.
Yes, there is a tremendous need for good foster homes, because agencies want to have homes waiting for children, not children waiting for homes. Your home may be the perfect placement for only a very few children and those children may not be in the foster care system at this time. Be patient!

In the Meantime . . .

If you find yourself waiting for a placement, here are some things you can do in the meantime.

Respite. Offer to provide respite care for your agency. You can provide a welcome breather to another foster family and get a taste of fostering at the same time. Respite can be for a week, a weekend, or longer.

Link to other foster parents. Build friendships with other foster parents from your agency and get involved with the children placed in their homes. You can demonstrate the type of positive experience your agency could expect to have if they would place a child with you.

Talk to your worker. If, after several months and honest soul searching you have not yet had a child placed in your home, ask your licensing worker to meet with you to discuss the reasons why you have not had a placement.

Maybe you are trying to fill a fostering parent niche that your agency does not need filled (e.g., infants of a specific race or gender who have not been exposed to drugs or alcohol). Ask and be willing to hear what the worker has to say.

Reprinted from Fostering Perspectives, v11, n2 (May 2007)