Foster parenting is a serious, often tough, but rewarding calling. The primary goal is to provide a safe, stable and caring environment for children until they can be reunified with their birth families.
Preparation for foster parenting goes beyond training, paperwork, background checks and homestudies. Emotional and mental preparation is required, as well.
Read as much as you can about foster parenting
Beyond the required preplacement training, it’s important to do further research. Read foster parenting blogs, tap into your agency’s resources, and look into reputable foster parenting guides and websites. (Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids are a few of our favorites.) It’s important to read the good, the bad and everything in between.
Connect with the foster parent community
Friends and family members may find the decision to be a foster parent hard to understand. Adding a support system of foster parents can provide a wealth of information, experience, resources and camaraderie. Current and previous foster parents can give great insight into the realities of foster parenting.
Remind yourself that not everyone will understand your decision to foster
Many of your friends and family may try to understand and support your decision to be a foster parent. Others may never understand why you would welcome a child into your home when that child will likely return to his or her birth family. Remaining clear in your motivations and mission will help you tell your story, but accepting that not everyone will be supportive is essential for your peace of mind.
Take the preplacement training seriously
Preplacement training is required and necessary. You’ll learn how to navigate the system, manage the child’s trauma and overcome obstacles. It’s also a wonderful way to meet other families who are starting this journey with you and who will add to your support system. Pay attention, do the work, and ask as many questions as possible.
Form a great relationship with your assessor
Your assessor can tell you about resources you never knew existed, not only for the children in your care, but for you, as well. Depending on how your agency is set up, your assessor could become an integral partner in your journey and an experienced sounding board in times of need.
Set expectations for yourself and your family
Although foster care can end in adoption, this is not the intended goal in most situations. Effectively setting expectations can help with any grief that family members may experience when children are reunified with their birth families.