We fostered and then adopted a sibling group of 5 in 2017. Along the way we learned a few tips and tricks that we hope will help and encourage others.
1. Keep a stash of clothes handy. Sometimes they actually come with nothing. After our first placement, we started hitting up thrift stores, sale racks, garage sales, anywhere we could find nice clothes for cheap.
2. In foster classes we were told to keep a list of questions handy for the caseworkers when we received placement calls. After receiving our first phone call that list went out the window. You see, if a child or children are coming straight from their home, most of the time the caseworker has no information. And, even when you receive your placement, you will only have the information the parent was willing to give...if the caseworker is able to get any. Just be prepared to be the main source of information for caseworkers, and other system staff.
3. Most of the time, kids will get to visit with family and parents at least once a week. This is incredibly traumatic for both the kids and their parents and sometimes they will take it out on you. We saw behaviors like biting, snarling, crying, anger, and generally not being able to be consoled after parent visits. This is totally understandable, please be sympathetic. If behaviors become extreme, you can contact your caseworker for advice but most of the time simply holding and comforting the child will make them feel safe again.
4. Caseworkers get a bad wrap. As with any people group, there are some bad apples but in our experience the bad ones are actually few and far between. They do, however, have a really, really tough job and after a while, they can become jaded just like any of us involved in the system can. You put up a wall to protect yourself from the pain and trauma the system brings upon everyone who works in it. Try to put yourself in your caseworker's shoes and see yourself as in the same boat. You are on the same team and your willingness to work together as a team will help tremendously.
5. Foster care requires a steep time commitment. You are needed for doctors appointments, immunizations, dental appointments, school meetings, parent meetings, team meetings, and the list goes on and on. If you are working full time, it is possible to foster! It will require sacrifice but if you are upfront with your employer, they are usually very supportive.
6. Medicaid pays for (nearly) everything!! When children enter foster care they are automatically assigned to Medicaid and trust me, it's a lifesaver! We've done dental surgeries to fix bottle mouth, tonsillectomies, numerous doctor and dental appointments, without a blink of an eye and a penny from your pocket. In fact, the only thing we've run into that Medicaid does not pay for is orthodontics. Plus, many states automatically place the child in the WIC program so be sure to check into that!
7. When a child first enters your home you will have lots of well-meaning friends and family that want to help. They will want to meet them, schedule play dates, bring meals, etc. Be aware that this will be incredibly overwhelming for you and your child. The child is trying to learn to trust you and a parade of strangers will only slow things down. Do not be afraid to say "No, thanks!".
We hope this list is helpful! We love supporting and encouraging others in foster care and adoption. It truly takes a village!