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Foster Family Challenges

Foster father sitting on the porch talking to his foster son

Foster parenting can be challenging not only for foster parents, but also for the entire family. Beyond the obvious changes to the family dynamics, there are a few safety and household concerns that families should be prepared to address.

Social Media

Social media has changed the way the world communicates. It also can create safety and privacy concerns. It’s probably unrealistic to forbid the children in your home to use social media as the internet is too widely accessible. The best approach is to provide guidance and set boundaries that work for everyone in the family.

It’s important to talk to your caseworker about guidelines for communication between the child and his or her birth family on social media. For confidentiality reasons, caution is recommended before sharing any information about children you’re fostering on your own social media, including posting their names or pictures.

Many social media sites use GPS to share a location when a post is created, which may put the safety of your family and the child at risk, in extreme cases. Be sure to manage location services on your phone and computer before your family shares anything publicly.

Set basic ground rules for everyone in the home:

  • Never give out personal information, including a full name, address, phone number or school name
  • Never send inappropriate photos
  • Always report inappropriate photos and conversations while on social media, text messaging or playing online games
  • Don’t be a bully and report bullying
  • Never meet anyone in person who you met online

Be sure to always monitor the child’s activity on social networks. Place the computer in a public room, do frequent searches to see where the child has posted or where their photos appear online, and check their public profiles often.

Allegations against your family

Children who have experienced trauma often have difficulty trusting adults and forming healthy attachments to them.

Living in a safe and stable foster home can help children heal, but sometimes the fear of attaching to another family causes the child to put up emotional walls and close the family out. Sometimes the child will go to great lengths to push the family away. For example, the child could make a false accusation of abuse or neglect against your family.

In the unlikely event that this happens, regardless of the legitimacy of the claim, be aware that an investigation will occur. Your agency will investigate, and the child’s county agency also will investigate. Remain calm and gather documentation. Begin your own written account about the allegation and continue to keep notes throughout the investigation, including conversations with the caseworker, the assessor and the child. You may decide that it will be best to secure an attorney well-versed in child welfare law to work on your behalf. Be courteous, polite and honest. Remember that everyone is looking out for the child’s best interest and wants to get to the truth.

Even if you’re not the subject of an allegation, it’s never a bad idea to document significant happenings concerning the children placed in your home. That documentation could be useful in the future.

Read more about how foster parenting will change your life and family.

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