You know I love forms, right?! Well I created one for initial placement calls, you can edit it as needed for your age range/preferences. This form includes a place to jot down the child's basic information as well as a list of questions you may want to ask before deciding to take the placement or not. One thing to keep in mind is that it is highly likely you will get calls where they have NO information about the child, its also highly possible that what little information you do get is totally inaccurate. I've had boys show up instead of girls, 4 year olds instead of 2 year olds, and red heads instead of blondes, LOL! So take what they tell you with a grain of salt. I keep several of these forms in a blank Foster Care Binder. When I have a placement call that we accept I just remove any sheets from calls we didn't take and scan them into a file on my computer, then shred the hard copies. I leave the sheet for the call we took in the front of the binder and now we are all set to stay organized and document with the new placement.
QUESTIONS TO ASK PLACEMENT WORKER:
Is this the first time in care?
If it is the child's first time in care you may not get a lot of information from the worker unless the agency has been working with the family for awhile in home. You can also expect their to be a lot of fear and anxiety for a child who has never experienced the foster system before.
Reasons for coming into care/removal from previous foster?
Any background information you can get on WHY they are coming into care will be extremely helpful in trying to understand fears, anxieties, triggers, behaviors, etc. It can also help you tweak your house rules and schedules to anticipate any needs the child may have. If the child is coming from another foster home you will want to know exactly why they are being removed. I would ALWAYS ask to speak with the previous foster parents, unfortunately I often hear stories about how information on things like aggression/violence, sexually acting out, attachment type issues, was not passed along or told to the new foster home.
Any allergies, health problems, medications?
They may not know but you will want to ask. Also if you have pets, specifically ask if the child is allergic to pets. For some reason often times placement overlooks this when you ask in general about allergies.
Any known emotional or behavioral issues?
This is a BIG one, you can expect any child coming into the foster care system to have been through A LOT already and as a result they will likely have some issues. However, if they have known emotional, behavioral, mental health issues you want to know what they are in order to make the best decision for your family. These children do not need another move, so if it can be at all prevented by you letting placement know up front the issues are too much for you to handle, do not feel guilty about saying "No".
How often are visits, when, where?
In my area we are required to transport the children to and from visits, their is no transportation provided. Depending on what county I get a call from the visits could be a decent drive away. Also near me younger children are being order to have more frequent visitations. So knowing ahead of time how often and when visits are can be a determining factor. The non-working birth parent who would rather sleep in on Saturday morning, WILL get that afternoon visit they want even though you have three soccer games to get to and your husband works Saturdays. Okay maybe where you are this doesn't happen, if so don't ever move LOL!
Any known criminal or drug involvement?
If you take older kids this is an important question to ask. You may also want to ask if the parents have any ongoing criminal or drug issues as well.
Who is the caseworker?
Once you've been doing this awhile you may have some caseworkers that you just DO NOT want to work with for various reasons. Some are uncooperative, untruthful, down right nasty. This is not a blanket statement for all caseworkers, some will be wonderful!!!!! BUT you may want to make sure your not taking on the added stress of a bad caseworker with the child.
Any potential family coming forward for child?
This can give you a good idea of how long the case might go. If they already have family saying they want to step up it may be a short placement. Never a guarantee though, many family members will not pass the homestudy.
Any other information or potential issues?
Lastly ask the placement worker if there is ANYTHING else they know about the placement.