The difficult journey that leads a child to foster care is almost always a traumatic one. State-run agencies such as Child Protective Services (CPS) assess the safety of each child they handle and decide whether or not the evidence indicates an abusive or neglectful situation and whether it calls for intervention. — Susanne Babbel MFT, PhD
It’s easy enough to understand why being involved in the foster care system is complicated. What is even more challenging are the preparations and adjustments that need to be made by all parties concerned. The situation is as tough as it can get when you put yourself in the shoes of the potential foster child. This person likely had to deal with loss in many forms, was likely uncomfortable with the living situation, and couldn’t identify love and emotional attachment.
The need for foster parents is ever so high. On average, about half a million children in the US spend time in foster care. The decision to open a home to fostering is one that shouldn’t be taken likely. Revisit and evaluate your motivation regularly and for a significant length of time, and ensure that it’s solid enough for the foundation of a foster relationship.
Many websites detail what it takes to be a foster parent, and here they are:
Parents Need To Prepare
Preparing physically, mentally, emotionally and financially is key. It’s precisely why the discerning process ideally takes a lengthy amount of time. Some of the most important considerations to prepare for are the legal processes. Nothing legal and binding is ever quick and easy. This process begins in the consideration stage and will essentially stay indefinitely, as demanded by the foster care system.
Knowing and understanding the profile of the foster child follows with a long to-do list of things to prepare. How old the child is, the culture that person is accustomed to, if they attended school, if they have family nearby and how they grew up. It determines things like sleeping arrangements in the house, school schedule, and habits in the home.
Parents also need to understand that the preparations are not just on the part of the parents. Especially if the foster family has young kids in the picture, involving the entire family is a crucial part of the process. Getting your family on board for the change entails explaining what fostering is, answer questions a kid might have, and preparing them for the changes and challenges that come with fostering while keeping a positive mindset on the next chapter.
When kids misbehave, parents who understand their children’s underlying needs (related to development and, in some cases, past trauma) respond in ways that guide the development of the personality underneath the monstrous mood paralyzing it. — Blake Griffin Edwards, MSMFT, LMFT
Expect To Manage Difficult Behavior
Something that can’t be said any other way, many foster kids are likely to have behavioral problems as a result of being in foster care and whatever realities they needed to deal with. Unsurprisingly, communication is key. Setting the right boundaries, learning how to discipline and creating a safe space for the foster child are some ways to overcome difficult behavior.
Experts also want to remind parents that fostering might be exciting at first, but the challenges have a reputation of taking a toll on marriages. Naturally, with an unfamiliar and challenging situation, stress and tension are high, and arguments might come about, but it’s essential to ensure the healthiness of the marriage and relationship.
With the growing recognition that adoptees have a right and a need to know about their birth-family history, most members of the adoption community acknowledge the benefits of openness for all members of the adoption triad: the adoptive parents, birth parents, and most importantly the child. — Suzette Bray, MFT
There Are People Who Can Help
An important reminder is that support for foster parents is everywhere. Experts warn that there will be many insensitive people who ask all the wrong questions and imply all the wrong things, but being surrounded by positive and helpful people will go a long way.
Find a community or support group to interact with regularly. Ask for advice, but always take everything with a grain of salt as every situation is different. Consult with a therapist or seek online therapy when things are getting too difficult to manage.
It’s not an easy process, but it sure is rewarding. Here’s to providing a better life for someone, one child at a time.