When Residential Care Makes Sense

Submitted by PeterAKenny on November 17, 2020

While family remains the time-honored best way to provide a child with nurture and safety, there are exceptions. Sometimes the medical or emotional needs of a child require more than an individual family can offer. Or an older foster child, usually age ten or more, seriously threatens the physical or sexual safety of family members.

Initial screening and a decision on the appropriate placement is usually made by the case manager. However, the DCS may ask a foster family if they can handle a particularly difficult child. How can you decide?

For a child who matches this description, listen and learn what you can ahead of time. If possible, visit with the child in his or her present placement. Talk with those who have had care of him or her. Talk with your fellow foster parents. Assess your family’s strengths and try to be honest about your limitations. Here are two guidelines to use in assessing your chances for success.

First, do you have sufficient resources to adequately meet the child’s needs? Remember, your time and energy are basic resources. Will this child deprive other family members? If the child suffers from a severe chronic medical problem, is there proper help to be had nearby? What about a severe psychiatric illness?

Second, will you be seriously jeopardizing the well-being and safety needs of other family members? If you have younger children, you should think carefully about taking an older foster child with a history of being physically or sexually abusive. Violent or sexually abusive newcomers do best in a family where they are the youngest members, or perhaps an only child.

Taking on a chronically seriously ill child or one that is physically or sexually abusive requires a special kind of “hang-in-there” love. And a special style of parenting.

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