Foster parenting isn’t as simple as just adding another person to your family. Each situation is unique because all children and families are unique. Yet, many foster families share common experiences. Here are some ways your daily life, and your family’s daily life, will change.
Foster parents are responsible for transporting their foster children to and from school, activities, appointments and visits with birth family members. Transportation needs will vary depending on the child’s needs and the family’s situation. Caseworkers will visit at least once a month to ensure the environment is safe for everyone involved.
Children need a consistent and predictable schedule. Dinner time, homework and bedtime should be around the same time each day, and will require time of you. Laundry, cleaning, getting children ready to leave the house, cooking and daily tasks might take slightly longer.
Behavior Issues and Needs
Each child has a unique set of circumstances that brought them into foster care, and many have experienced neglect or abuse. This can lead to behavioral issues that you may not have experienced in the past. These behaviors also can affect the children already in your household.
Helping a child work through these issues can be difficult, both emotionally and physically. It can change the atmosphere of your home and the amount of time you have for your children, but it also can be very rewarding.
Fostering a child could change the way you discipline in your home. Foster parents aren’t allowed to use physical punishment, such as spanking, with foster children. If this is how you discipline your children, you’ll need to learn other methods.
Impact on Family Members
Everyone in your home must agree to be part of a foster family because everyone will be affected. If you have your own children, the experience can teach them empathy, kindness and selflessness. They will need to sacrifice some of your time, your attention, their space, their toys and sometimes even having their own bedroom. They also will need to be secure enough in their relationship with you to be comfortable sharing you with other children. It will take time for everyone to settle into the new living situation. It’s important to remain firm, caring and patient while everyone adjusts.
Impact on Your Relationship or Marriage
If you have a significant other, adding another family member can leave you with less time and energy for your partner. The unique challenges and stressors that come with foster parenting can put a strain on even the closest relationships. Be sure to take time for yourself and time for the other important people in your life to alleviate stress and promote a more balanced, positive and healthy atmosphere for everyone in your family.
As part of the homestudy process, an assessor will walk through your house to complete a safety audit. In addition, a fire inspection and well water test (if applicable) will need to be completed. The assessor will make sure that any dangerous items are inaccessible to children in the home.
Spontaneous travel and traveling great distances may be more difficult with a foster child. Most agencies require pre-approval for children to travel long distances with your family. We recommend that you learn your agency’s travel policies, as well as those of the agency with custody of the child.
Any alternative care arrangements (babysitters, child care centers, etc.) must be approved by the agency prior to providing care for foster children placed with the family. Some agencies may provide a higher per diem to families who have to secure regular child care due to employment.
Fulfillment and Sense of Purpose
Most importantly, foster parenting is a very rewarding experience that can add meaning to your life. Sometimes people choose to be foster parents after their children have left for college. Sometimes they decide to be foster parents because they were unable to have children biologically. Helping children work through their trauma, providing stability, nurturing them, and watching them grow could be one of the most fulfilling things you've ever done.