It’s a frequently asked question: “Now that I’m a licensed foster parent, how long before I receive my first foster care placement?”

Much like many of the other commonly asked foster care questions—including How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid?—there isn’t a simple, one-size-fits-all answer.

But it’s understandable why newly licensed foster parents ask—and sometimes obsess—over this question. After all, the process of becoming a licensed foster parent typically takes months (see: How Long Does It Take to Become a Foster Parent?), and by the time the process is complete many individuals are more than ready to get down to the business of foster parenting.

Factors Affecting Foster Care Placement

As you might expect, one of the most significant factors in how long it takes to receive a placement is your preferences.

If you have narrow parameters in terms of age, race, religion, etc., the process may take longer. On the other hand, if you’re open to the idea of fostering children within a wide range of ages and backgrounds the possibilities expand considerably.

At the same time, geography and location may also be a significant factor. That is, there may be a greater need if you live in a rural area, where licensed foster parents are fewer in number.

Meanwhile, current trends in foster care can also be a factor. For example, kinship care—that is, care provided by relatives—is on the rise in many states, potentially lessening the need for traditional foster homes in certain parts of the country.

How To Maximize Your Chances of Receiving a Placement

There are things you can do to accelerate the process of receiving your first placement.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you open to taking kids who many would consider particularly challenging?
  • Are you open to getting additional training that might qualify you for kids with a particular issue?

Simply getting to know other foster parents can make a difference too. Those relationships can be very valuable, as longtime foster parents will likely have insights into how they handled waiting for their first placement, not to mention insights about what to expect when that first child arrives.

It’s also conceivable that you’ll hear about a potential placement from another foster parent, one who isn’t able to take in a particular child.

Finally, there are other things you can do that are more personal:

  • Make yourself easy to work with and be a good communicator.
  • Make it known to the workers you encounter what kind of placements would be a good fit for you.
  • Consider taking vacation placements or short-term or emergency placements, which can help you to build and solidify relationships while “getting your feet wet,” so to speak.

Foster Care Placement: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Of course, you only want to say ‘yes’ to children you’re confident you’ll be able to care for. Foster children need parents who are going to advocate for them, especially when they are sick, angry, or sad.

So it’s vital that you foster children who are a good fit for your lifestyle and parenting strengths, which is why it’s imperative that you turn down any placement if you feel it’s not a good fit for you and your family.

After all, you want to maximize the chance of being able to make a positive, meaningful difference in a child’s life, and it doesn’t help anyone if you experience a failed placement.

Last but not least, it’s worth remembering that waiting is the hardest part.

Be patient and trust that the right child will come at the right time. And when that first child does come your way, all of your worrying will likely seem insignificant. No doubt you’ll find it will have been worth the wait after you’ve received the opportunity to help a child in need.

Have questions? Want to learn more about foster care placement?

Contact an Omni Visions office in your home state or give us a call toll-free at (800) 851-6108. Since 1991, Omni has specialized in providing training and support to caregivers so foster children can reach their fullest potential.