Celebrating Strong Foster Parents and How You Can Become One Too: Foster Care Awareness Month

Have you considered becoming a foster parent?  For many families, making the commitment to foster is a lengthy process with much deliberation.  A common concern for many families who are weighing the options of fostering, is whether or not they would be successful as foster parents.  Every successful foster home that opens their doors to children in need has strong qualities that allow children to thrive under their circumstances. Successful long term foster homes not only ensure the safety and love for foster children, but make it a priority to stay happy and healthy themselves.  Below are some tips of what long term foster parents do to be successful not only in opening their doors to foster children, but also to stay physically and mentally healthy as well.

Tip #1 Remembering that reunification with the birth family is always the goal, when possible.

The definition and purpose of what foster care is, can be a difficult realization for some families wanting to foster.  One of the hardest challenges with recruiting good foster parents is many individuals having a hard time with the concept of loving a child and then having to give that child back to their biological family.

The goal of foster care isn’t taking children away from their parents. Instead, it is a system that has been put in place that allows families to heal and eventually be reunited.  That is the purpose of foster care.

Tip #2 Have a good support system.

Support systems are important and even go deeper than just having a friend you can call when things get hard. While it is important to surround yourself with family and friends that support you emotionally- it is also important to have someone who can be there that you can rely on when there are last minute needs.

Once you have been approved as a foster home, you will never know when a placement call will come in and what the specific needs will be of that child. It’s not uncommon for children to arrive at your home with limited supplies.  Having a go-to person that can help you with unexpected needs and support are crucial.

Tip # 3 Know that you won’t be able to control everything and that’s okay.

For many of us, planning our day down to the minute and controlling all of the factors that come into our life are important.  Anytime children are living in your home, foster or biological, the unexpected often happen.  How do you respond to scenarios that pop up that you weren’t expecting and you can’t necessarily control the outcome?

The reality is, there are many aspects of the foster care system and oftentimes there will be things that are out of the control of the foster parents. By accepting the things that you cannot control and working to find alternative solutions are important in being successful as a foster parent.

Tip # 4 Make sure your life has some flexibility.

Not everyone who fosters has 100% job flexibility, but you should prepare yourself that situations come up and flexibility in your life will be crucial. Things ranging from doctors’ appointments to your child getting sick at school- it’s good to have a plan in place with how you can make sure you can meet the needs of your child without it causing major stress to your day.

Many successful foster parents who work full-time make sure that their employer knows and understands the demands of what being a foster parent means, and has a plan in place with their employer before a placement happens. Once you enter the world of foster care, you may find that advanced planning can be difficult to do.

Tip #5 A good sense of humor.

It’s going to be important to be able to rely on your sense of humor in those situations where you can’t control and sometimes the best approach to dealing with situations is to find the humor in it.

Tip #6 Desire to learn about the world of foster care and foster children.

Every child who comes into the foster care system is different as is their recovery process from the trauma they may have endured.  It is important to not only advocate for children who have entered foster care through no fault of their own, but also understand what the needs are of the children who come into your home and the services that may be required.

Tip #7 A good dose of patience.

The reality is that while you may be excited for your first placement and getting “the call” to let you know you have been matched with a child, most likely the child will not share the same excitement about being in your home at first.  Relationships with foster children, just like any other relationship, must be built over time through trust and mutual acceptance.  Children who come into foster care do so for a variety of reasons, as well as a variety of traumas.  Children often aren’t able to see the greater good of why they are in foster care and how a foster family can love and help them during the time they are in the home.  Be prepared for children to take time adjusting to their new life with you. It’s not uncommon for words of frustration and anger to come up and the most successful foster families remember that even though the words can be hurtful, it’s not about them personally but more about the situation the foster child feels that they are in.

By Monica Beere

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