Foster Care Emergencies or Planned Placements
Emergency vs. Planned Placements in Foster Care
Benefits and challenges of a planned foster care placement
Most people consider emergency placements when considering how a youth ends up placed in a foster home. You get a call about a child and their age, a gender, and then in a whirlwind of a couple of hours, you have a youth joining your family and a whole list of tasks to conquer over the next few weeks, along with starting to form connections and build trust.
However, in serving as a therapeutic foster parent, there is the possibility that you could participate in the process of a planned placement. There are benefits and challenges to each. Children in therapeutic foster care or some states are known as treatment foster care, but all are known as TFC.
If your goal is traditional foster care, we must understand that the long-term care goals are to return home to the child's biological family. If the courts had changed this goal to find an adoptive family, the placement process would be the same in the United States.
First, let's go over why a placement may be planned. For the most part, all planned placements will be with youth already in foster care rather than those just entering care.
A planned placement may occur because:
- The youth needs an adoptive placement.
- Youth is stepping down from a higher level of care, such as a group home, residential treatment facility, or mental health program.
- Youths cannot remain at their current foster home for various reasons, such as health care needs or looking for a permanent family.
What are the benefits and challenges of participating in a planned placement?
- Benefit: Get the opportunity to know more about the youth entering your home, making the foster care and adoption process much easier for the children in foster care and you as the therapeutic foster care parents.
- Challenge: Get to know more about the youth entering your home.
I know you're thinking, "I thought getting more information was good?" While knowledge and more information can be excellent and will allow you and your team to put supports in place, it can also lead to assumptions about the youth your family may be considering.
Youth in care have the disadvantage of having every major and minor event in their life (both good and not-so-great) documented by various professionals. So one moment where they maybe did not make the best choice or had a trauma response will follow them for the rest of their time in care, letting others pass judgment on them before even meeting them.
To succeed as a foster parent, it is good to talk to your child placing agency (CPA) to understand any concerns from medical conditions and abuse neglect history you are concerned about. A CPA will not offer you a placement that they feel will fail you.
- Benefit: Be able to meet with youth before placement. You could participate in an interview (basically a meet and greet to serve as an icebreaker) or a pre-placement visit.
- A challenge is having a great connection and sending them back to their previous placement until placement can be arranged!
- Bene-Challenge: If they're meeting with you, they may be meeting with other families
- A benefit to both the youth we serve and the family is that all parties involved will work to develop the best match for the youth to reduce their placements. This can feel like a challenge to our families, who get the chance to learn about and attach to the idea of the youth joining their family only to be told that the Department of Social Services has chosen another family.
Either way, the foster care process can be a roller coaster even before a youth is placed in your home. If you are willing to receive emergency placements, each time the phone rings can be a "this is it!" moment. If participating in planned placement coordination, there can be excitement, disappointment, hopes, dreams, and what feels like never-ending waiting.
What do you think is suitable for your family?
One thing to remember is that before the phone call to you about a Planned or Emergency placement, a lot has happened before we speak to you. The Child Placing Agency has already had a meeting as a team to see which parents would be the best fit for the child with the information we have. So if you are receiving a phone call, you have already been vetted within the agency, and your team believes you are suitable for this child. The child is ideal for foster care placement.
Now the choice is up to you.