Whether it’s your first placement or your fifteenth, that call can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. And if you’re anything like me, your mind starts spinning with all of the things that you need to get ready and all the questions you need to ask. Below is a list of the most common things I want to know.

But first, a disclaimer: anyone who has gotten that call before will tell you that often, information is very limited. The person calling about placement may not be the same person who has removed the child, and even then, the focus is finding a safe place for the child, not details. So while these are good questions to ask, they may not yield a lot of answers. That’s okay—any information you can get is helpful at this point.

How old is this child? Boy or girl? These are basic questions and hopefully will be some of the first things you’ll be told. Even if you’re open to a wide range of ages, these questions help you know what else you need to do. Where will this child sleep (especially if you have other children in your home and kids are sharing bedrooms)? What clothes do you have on hand that might fit, or do you need to plan a run to Target (or better yet, put a friend on notice that you might need help with this)?

Does the child have any known special needs? Some special needs might be more than you are comfortable handling, and it’s better to know and state that up front. At the very least, knowing this will help you prepare.

Does this child have any food allergies? Is he or she taking any regular medications? Most everything else you can figure out as you go along, but since some of these questions can be a matter of life and death, they’re incredibly important.

Why is this child being brought into care? Most likely, you won’t be told a lot of details about this, but understanding the basic reasons can help you meet the child’s needs, especially at the beginning. Was there neglect? You can be fairly sure that there will be food issues. Sexual or physical abuse? The child may be especially fearful of anyone in the house who is the same age/gender/size as the abuser. You can also take special care at bathtime to make sure the child feels safe and in control.

Does the child have siblings? Sometimes not all children in a family are brought into care at the same time, or siblings may be split between different homes. Knowing this will help you answer questions from your foster child and also know if maintaining sibling connections will be a part of caring for this child. And sometimes, foster parents of sibling groups can form a partnership with each other.

If the child is school age, what school does he or she attend? Your foster child may or may not remain in the same school after coming into care, but if so, you will need to be prepared to provide transportation until other options can be arranged. Even then, your foster child will likely have school events and conferences that you will need to attend.

Fellow foster parents, what would you add to this list? What are the most helpful questions you ask when first called about a placement?

Kristy is mom to two sweet, funny, wonderful kids and works full time in information technology. During her spare time, she likes to browse Pinterest and thrift stores, create things, and hang out with her kids. As a foster parent, Kristy cares about advocating for the needs of kids in foster care and supporting foster families. You can read her thoughts on these and many other topics at her blog.