Thousands of children out there are in need of a stable home. Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough foster families available for all of these kids. Have you considered becoming a foster parent? To help you prepare, here is a list of 7 skills that will support you as a foster parent. While foster parenting is more complicated than just knowing some skills, this list will be a great place to start understand which skills will be of most benefit to you and your child.
As a foster parent, you will be responsible for all of the appointments for your new family member. In addition to medical, dental, and eye/ear appointments you will also have to manage their school schedule. Due to their difficult situations, many foster children have additional counselling or therapies to address developmental or learning needs. You will also have the training to attend, and visits and meetings with agency workers. Effectively maintaining a paper or digital calendar will save you a lot of headache in the end.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Right from the start, foster parenting is a team effort. At your foster agency you will have a worker, your foster child will have a worker, there is a placement worker, and often a supervisor. Outside of the agency you will have to connect with the child’s teachers, doctors, therapists, and even the birth family.
Collaboration is advanced by emotional intelligence. Being able to “read” a situation, communicate and advocate, listen to other perspectives, empathize and problem solve as part of a group will be invaluable to your success as a foster parent.
Positive Discipline and Conflict Resolution
This may be the most important skill you learn and build as you foster children. Your foster child will have grown up with a completely different set of rules and have possibly endured traumatic events. This means as they go through the typical developmental stages of testing boundaries and making mistakes, it will be your responsibility to influence their behaviours without adding to their trauma.
Using reinforcement and rewards, breaks instead of timeouts, focusing on teaching the correct behaviours and problem solving will be essential to curbing negative behaviours and building a trusting relationship with your foster child.
You will be the advocate for your own family as well as your foster child from here on out. That means clear, effective, concise communication will be an important skill to learn. Learning how to review what is necessary, say what is needed, and be objective at all times is a must. You can vent to your partner or therapist, but leave personal feelings out of your foster care notes and communication. The foster care system is frequently stretched, all parties will appreciate keeping communication succinct and to the point.
Openness to learn
There is no manual to guide a foster family because every child will come with their own unique set of needs and preferences. While you are not expected to be an expert in child psychology, a willingness to learn about the challenges your foster child is facing, will benefit you both. Your foster agency will offer training, recommend books or videos, and connect you to community resources so you can better understand and meet the needs of the foster children who come to stay with you.
Self and Family Care
Becoming a foster parent will not be easy. In fact, some days will be very hard. You, your partner, and any children in your home will need to become proficient in taking breaks, learning how to relax, and what helps them recharge. Parenting from a stressed mindset benefits nobody. Make a list of joyful activities and practice them as often as you can. Living room dance parties, game nights, family walks, a private bubble bath, curling up with a good book, and most importantly talking with a therapist, can all become part of your regular family care routines and will help you face your stresses with renewed energy.
This may not initially seem like a skill but demonstrating compassion will help you in your path as a foster parent. Often a child’s grief at the loss of their home and family can result in behaviours that are challenging. Showing compassion means listening intently, encouraging your child to speak their true feelings, showing kindness, respecting privacy if they don’t want to speak, responding in a kind and considerate way, and advocating for their needs. If you feel frustrated, take a break before you respond.
Just about everyone who knows anything about foster care wishes they could help in some way—but very few people actually take the big step to actually become foster parents. This incredibly impactful role takes joy, patience, and flexibility but to truly excel at this role, these key skills will ensure you can take the challenges in stride. Contact Satori to learn more about how you can change the life of a child.