Becoming a foster parent is a huge decision, not to be taken lightly or made quickly. If this is something that interests you a good first step is to start gathering information. Go the the websites of your local agencies, both private and public. If there are information sessions, attend them. Talk to other foster parents (there are some great online groups). Learn more about what is involved, the process, the logical steps. There are lots of myths and misunderstanding surrounding foster care so make sure you get the facts. Once you have a better understanding of the system it is time to consider the following:
Do you have the time it takes to be a full time parent?
Understand from the outset that fostering is a 24/7, 365 days a year task – an extremely rewarding task, but like anything that is worthwhile in life you have to work at it. You have to be able to give freely of your love as you are in a unique position to teach the kids in your care what a healthy, loving relationship looks like.
Do you have a strong support system of friends and/or family?
Fostering a child can become very stressful at times, even more than parenting your bio children because there are additional challenges. You will need to rely on the support of your network of family and friends. Talk to your family and friends about your plan and what it might entail. Do they understand? Will they support you? If you don’t have a support system already in place, be sure to participate in support groups. Also, ask your agency what types of support they have available.
Are you prepared to educate yourself and participate in ongoing training?
Fostering requires ongoing learning. If you do not enjoy learning new skills, it may not be for your. The more skills you have, the better level of care you can deliver for children placed in your care. There will be some required training but there is also a lot more you can do. From attending workshops on ADHD and the spectrum, to online trauma training, to constantly reading about whatever challenges face your kids. You will be better able to manage what fostering throws at you the more confident you are in your knowledge and skills base.
Do not expect the children place in your care to be grateful.
Many foster children have been let down in their lives by adults, and sometimes by bureaucracy and systems. The last thing they will be feeling is grateful. You have to win their trust and help them manage the trauma they have lived through. This is not something that happens quickly but the long term rewards are tremendous.
Can you work with a team?
Being a foster parent involves working with a group of professional to deliver the best outcomes for the child. These involves social workers, agencies, specialists etc. If you cannot work as a part of team think again about whether fostering is for you. There will be times of great frustration when you may not feel the right decisions are being made and feel like you have little control. The best way to advocate for children in your care is to be an active member of “their team”. Go to school meetings, communicate with their social workers, participate in their plan of care creation.
How will fostering affect you financially?
On a practical level, you will get financial support when children are in your care. Just remember that not all placements are long term and you may have times in between placements where that income stops. Every foster parent is different, you may be working full or part time while fostering, or this may be your sole source of income. It is important to understand the impact that fostering can have on your financial situation.
How will fostering affect your children?
If you have your own children they have to be a top priority when deciding to foster. The relationships that they will build with their foster siblings can be extremely rewarding but there are also some cautions. Discuss things with children that are old enough to understand. Take the time to prepare them before bringing a foster child into the home and ensure that you have clear communication throughout your journey. Your children need to feel that they can trust you and share with you their concerns and questions. Being a good foster parent means being a good parent.
Can you say good bye?
The children will move on someday. A safe, long term situation is what you want for them. That can mean returning to bio parents, kin, adoption or simply moving out on their own. You and your family will attach to this child, so don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise. This trusting relationship is a good thing, for both you and the child. If the child can love and trust you, they will be able to do the same with others in their lives and this leads to a brighter, healthier future.
After gathering the facts and listening to your heart, and head, you will make the best decision for you and your family. If becoming a foster parent is the right choice for you, it is time to start your journey. At Satori Foster Agency we are happy to answer any questions you may have and help assist you in getting started.