1 - Licensing. The whole licensing process takes a while. When we originally went through licensing we only asked to be licensed for 4, our bio-son + 3 fosters. We thought that was reasonable and didn't ask for the 6 we could have asked for. Looking back (and my advice to newcomers) I wish I would have asked for everything in the beginning rather than go through the extension process. It started to become a problem when #3 was sent back to his parents who subsequently lost him permanently and then had to go to a shelter while waiting for a permanent home because our home was "full" with 4 kiddos at the time. It broke our hearts. Then it took several months to get approved for a 5th child when we were waiting for Summer's brother. It was such an ordeal (especially when he never ended up coming). Now we've been waiting 5 months for our license to be extended to 6 and that was the original reason we were waiting for the kids. The county didn't want to extend our license to 6 until the caseworker confirmed they were going to place the kids in our home on a certain date. The caseworker didn't want to committ to placing the kids in our home by a certain date until she knew our license approved. Ironically these people work in the same building for the same county just with different focus areas. THEN, even after the caseworker confirmed the plan to put the children in our home it took another 6 weeks to get to this point, primarily because of the licensing challenge. It didn't help that our regular licensing (FAD) worker went on leave during all of this so we were dealing with a new (very helpful) replacement.
2 - Best Interest of the Kids. Everyone wanted to prevent moving the kiddos more than necessary so almost all of the rest of the hesitation had to do with the best interest of the kiddos:
- Court - The original 10 week delay was because we were all waiting for the court to make a ruling so that we all knew whether the kids would stay in care or not. This ruling usually is immediate so the fact that it took 10 weeks was very unusual in my experience and everyone kept delaying moving them thinking the ruling was imminent. The ruling was such that the kids would have been removed from my home at that time anyway. THEN, another ruling kept them where they currently are.
- Pre-placement visits - Visits with children before they're placed in your home is common when you are seeking an adoptive placement. It is required for all other foster placements (where we are) except in a handful of situations including emergency (they were just removed and need a home tonight!) and with kiddos under a certain age (babies, for example). Almost all of our kiddos have fallen under one or both of those exemptions so we've never had pre-placement visits before. We've only had 3 cases where we *could* have had pre-placement visits and for a variety of reasons we waived the right to pre-placement at that time. In this case, because we had time while waiting for the judge and our license and a few other specific things pre-placement visits were a definite possibility. Considering the children's history this year alone in being moved around and some behaviors from some of the kids that apparently result from the moves, we all felt it would be best if we took 1-2 weeks to "get to know" the kids. The thought was this would allow us to see what it would be like to have 6 kids, these kids in particular, to prevent us from backing out after they come into our home (as much as possible, anyway). It would also allow the kids to feel they had some sort of voice in the process, to give them the chance to want to live with us rather than their current home, rather than being forcibly shipped off to yet another home in the middle of the night.
- Timing - The end of the school year and other case-related factors had something to do with it but again they were things decided in the best interest of the kiddos, like not moving the school-aged kids until the end of the school year so they didn't have to start school at a new school with 1 week left and miss the end-of-the-year activities with the friends they'd built.
What are pre-placement visits?
In our case they worked like this. We had 2 meal-time visits with just the 3 kiddos, my husband, and I. We had a babysitter for the other children. Then we had a weekend visit where we had the option whether or not to do an overnight or 2 days with a drop-off in between for the night. We chose to have an overnight visit (so they were with us all weekend). This visit was with the entire family so we were able to get to know each other, they were able to see our home and what it's like in our family, we were able to see how all of the kiddos interacted, and we had a bit of a longer visit with the kiddos to experience behaviors and what it's like to have 6 kids. We had 1 final meal-time visit with all the family together, mostly because we were waiting until this weekend to take them in to stay and we didn't want to not see each other for a full-week.
I'm grateful for the pre-placement visits and very grateful we're finally where we are today!