A Day In The Life Of A Foster Parent

Jul 19, 2018

A day in the life of a foster parent can hold many challenges and rewards. Foster children can have special needs, come from a history of violence or drug abuse in the home, or recently faced the loss of one or more parents. Sometimes there are no extended family members to care for these children, and they are left with no resources except those of the foster care system.  These children face some of the same challenges other kids face, but very often they face serious challenges other children, and some adults, cannot fathom. These children need more than just shelter from the elements, they need understanding, patience, love, acceptance, and security.

When preparing your home for a foster child, one of the first things you’ll want to do is be sure everyone, especially other children, are on board with the idea. If you have biological children of your own, they need to know they won’t be taking second place to the new member of the household. Getting them involved in preparing your house to receive a new child can help them feel they are a part of the process. Preparation doesn’t have to be extensive, but there should be an appropriate bed, closet or dresser, age-appropriate toys, and if possible, a separate room for the new arrival. If you can get information on the foster child’s food preferences and have things they enjoy available, it can help make the foster child feel more welcome.

When you first bring your foster child home, show them their room and what you have prepared for them. Don’t overdo it; allow them to pick some decorations and items they like to personalize their new room. You may or may not receive a reaction; don’t press for one. The child will likely be feeling a bit scared and possibly overwhelmed with all the changes. It can be a good idea to pack away any breakable items, or fragile items of sentimental value. Let him or her know that they are welcome, go over your house rules, and give them a tour of the home. It may be a good idea to have a written copy of the house rules, your family’s daily schedule, and cell phone numbers for the adults in the home. You can post this on the wall of their room, write it on a white board, or put together a binder with other important information and photos of your house and family. Let the child know you look forward to adding photos of them to your family album.

When it comes to activities, include your foster child in all your family activities and ask for their input as to their favorite things to do. Your family may love board games, but your foster child may love video games. Find a way to include the child in both activities and try doing new things together to discover other activities your whole family can enjoy. You may discover a new activity that everyone will come to love.

At some point, you may be required to return your foster child to their biological family. This can be an emotional time for everyone, and younger children may not comprehend the reasons the family dynamic must change. It’s important to remain calm and supportive during this process. Even if you are not allowed to maintain contact with the child once they leave your home, you should be able to stay in touch with their social worker and possibly receive updates on how the child is doing.

Being a foster parent requires dedication and commitment and is not a decision to be made lightly. The impact of being in the foster system is life changing for all involved, and becoming a foster parent is a commitment of time, resources, support, emotions, and care. Becoming a foster parent is an opportunity to provide stability, love, and support for a child and family in a time of great need, often at a turning point for both the child and the family. If you think you may wish to become a foster parent in the Colorado foster care system, we encourage you to first educate yourself on the requirements.

Kid’s Crossing is a private, non-profit, 501c3 Child Placement Agency licensed by the State of Colorado providing resources and training for foster parents. Our agency was founded by foster parents, for foster parents, and we understand the heart, commitment, and dedication required to foster a child. For more information on Colorado foster care and/or becoming a foster parent in Colorado Springs, call Kid’s Crossing at (719) 632-4569.

Facts and Statistics on Fostering Children

Jun 11, 2018

If you are interested in the foster care system and particularly if you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you probably have hundreds of questions.

While we certainly can provide you with the answers to hundreds of questions about foster parenting, we don't want to overwhelm you with information before you even take the first steps. But let us answer a few questions here about the foster care system and whether you can play a role in that system.

The Need for Foster Parents

Probably, your first question about fostering children is: Am I really needed? Some of the statistics about the foster care system will answer that question with an emphatic "Yes!"

As of September 30, 2016, the last year for which complete figures are available, 437,465 children were in the foster care system. That number has climbed more than 40,000 since 2012 and continues to increase each year.

The largest percentage (45 percent) of children in foster care are being cared for in non-relative homes, while 32 percent are in the homes of relatives other than their parents or primary caregivers. Only 7 percent are in institutions and 5 percent in group homes, so it's obvious how important loving, non-relative foster parents are to the success of the foster care system.

In Colorado, nearly 10,000 children spent time in foster care in 2016 with an average of 14 children removed from their parents' homes each day, and the state reports it will need an additional 1,200 foster parent homes in the coming two years, according to a Denver Post article published in October 2017.

Kids in Foster Care

The statistics also provide a quick snapshot if you are wondering what types of children end up in foster care.

While you might think many abused children end up in the foster care system, only 12 percent of children are removed from their homes because of physical abuse. The vast majority, 61 percent, are removed for neglect. Thirty-four percent of the children in foster care come to the system because of parents' drug abuse. (Many of the reasons for children entering care are overlapping so these numbers will total more than 100 percent.) Even 10 percent of children enter the system because their parents are unable to find suitable housing.

You also might expect parenting a foster child will come with special challenges, and it will, but only 11 percent of children are removed from their parents' care specifically because of the child's behavioral problems.

One particular issue of concern for those who run foster care programs is finding foster families of similar ethnicity to the children. Nationwide, 22 percent of the children in foster care are African American and 21 percent are Hispanic, while foster families make up much smaller percentages from those backgrounds.

Exiting Foster Care

Though many children end up in long-term foster care situations, more than half of children leaving foster care are reunited with their parents or primary caregivers. Another 23 percent are adopted, either by their foster parents or by non-foster parents, meaning there is a need for both short-term and long-term foster families.

Whatever the route for a child leaving foster care, it's still going to take some time as the average stay is 19 months. Parents who seek to get their children back often must go through a treatment program or extensive training to ensure they are able to properly care for their children. Adoption also takes time as adoptive parents must undergo a background check.

Are You Ready?

Among the many questions you still have, one more big one is: Do I/We Qualify? You also will have to submit to a background check and may need to answer some hard questions, but it will be worth the effort if you truly are interested in helping these children.

A few basic qualifications you must meet:

• You must be 21 years of age or older.

• You must have an extra bedroom in your home that can accommodate foster children.

• You must have a valid Colorado driver's license and have access to a reliable vehicle that is dutifully registered in Colorado.

• You must be financially stable without the income fostering will provide.

• You cannot smoke in your home or vehicle while fostering.

You'll need to meet a few more requirements and certainly will need a love of children and physical stamina and patience to commit to these foster children. If you would like more answers or are ready to apply to become a foster parent in Colorado, contact Kids Crossing to start the process today.

Can I Foster A Child?

Jun 04, 2018

Fostering children is a rewarding and life-changing experience. There are many components involved in being a great foster parent and above all else, it's absolutely imperative that you are completely honest with yourself about whether or not you are ready to foster a child or children.

Consider the reason(s) why you wish to become a foster parent. Are you physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally prepared to deal with the sometimes heart-breaking circumstances that can land in your living room? How well do you handle stress? Do you have an adequate support system in place before taking on the demanding role of foster parent?

There are a slew of considerations to think on before choosing to provide a foster home for the thousands of children in need of a loving, temporary home but if you've done an honest evaluation of your preparedness and willingness to take that step, here are the next steps to take.

Legal Requirements

What you need to have in your home

Whether you rent or own a home or apartment, and are married, single, divorced, or widowed, the State of Colorado accepts applications from any individuals who meet the above criteria but there are additional necessities your foster children will need before you become a foster parent. 

Many of the children who are in the foster care system are coming from a place of abuse or neglect and often they will arrive with very little to call their own so it's important that your home is prepared for just about anything.

A separate room for children.

Whether you rent or own a home or apartment, your dwelling needs to have an extra room and space adequate for a child.

Personal Hygiene Items

Be sure you have extra toothbrushes, combs, and toiletries for each sex and various ages of children.

Safety Measures

Many children in the foster system come from dysfunctional families with drug or alcohol abuse so it's important that you use proper safety measures to ensure access to harmful chemicals or medicines be out of reach. 

Comfort Items

Because of the sensitive nature of taking in a traumatized child, it's helpful to have cozy things that they can embrace once they move in. Having a selection of comfy blankets or teddy bears can be an effective way to help break the ice with new children and help them feel safe enough to settle in.

Emergency Contacts

When you take in a foster child, you'll have a foster care team that includes: 

Make sure you have a list of all of the key players involved in your foster home, including social workers, doctors, therapists, and other key figures and their contact information.

How to Apply for Fostering a Child (First Steps)

It may seem like a complicated process but if becoming a foster parent is important to you, there's no time like the present to begin the process. 

The first step is to complete and submit an application package. Once you've done this, you can begin with the rest of the requirements. All told, the process involves a cost of up to $65 if you go through Kids Crossing. We ask that foster parent candidates get certified in CPR, obtain a physical, and make sure all pets in your home have proof of vaccinations.

For more information about how you can become a qualified foster parent, contact us and talk with one of our many experts about how you can start today.

Are You Ready To Be A Foster Parent?

Apr 20, 2018

Being a foster parent is as rewarding as it is challenging. Many well-intentioned people want to become foster parents to the many children in need of one. The most recently available statistics indicate there were more than 420,000 children in foster care in 2015. Their median amount of time spent in foster care was 13.5 months with the largest percentage of children (35 percent) staying between one and 11 months.

But before making the leap to providing a foster home to a child/children, it's important to honestly evaluate several things in your home and life.

Is Your Home Ready?

Most foster children are removed from their homes because they have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. Their lives have been turned upside down and, often, they can suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues related to their family homes and lives. 

Because of this, it is important that your home provides them with a sense of safety and security that they may never have experienced before.

Having their own room(s) with their own bed(s) may be a new experience for them. Be prepared with things like extra pillows or blankets, stuffed animals, night lights, and other things that might bring them comfort. Be aware, also, that some things may trigger children by reminding them of their previous home so be prepared to add or remove things that might cause them distress.

Do You Have Enough Resources?

Resources will be an important part of providing your foster children with the loving, supportive environment that can help them stay healthy and focused. Finances are an important consideration but there are other resources that will be essential to providing them with the structure and healing they will likely need.

Are there sports or other extracurricular activities they can participate in?
Do you have the time and availability to take them to mental and physical health appointments?
Are your friends and family members open to - and supportive of - your fostering?
Do you have your own down-time plans? 
Do you have your own experts you can turn to for help or guidance when if you become overwhelmed?

Can You Provide Them With What They Need?

Being a foster parent is a selfless act that is rooted in the best interest of the children but it is not a simple or easy undertaking. Foster parents take in children who have sometimes experienced unimaginable pain and turmoil. These children are going to need special care and attention, in addition to food, shelter, education, and clothing.

Remember these children are in a completely unfamiliar place and will sometimes be in need of mental health care. To this end, one of your greatest gifts to them is the continued care while they are living in your home. Your support, patience, and understanding are vital to their ongoing growth. 

Be aware that there is no guarantee on the length of time a foster child will stay in the home. Your commitment to them is going to require a lot of your time and attention and many will be shut down or distant, needing extra patience and guidance from you.

Ultimately, the role of the foster parent is an altruistic, loving attempt to inject joy, love, acceptance, and positive experiences into the lives of those who may otherwise never experience it. There is a large number of youths who age out of foster care and struggle with their adulthood, but there have been many success stories of foster children who grew into icons across the world.

Being a foster parent gives you the opportunity to be somebody's hero so make sure your decision to provide a foster home is informed and authentic. Take time to learn as much as possible about the ups and downs of fostering and, when you're ready, reach out to us and help us to help others in need.

The Life of a Foster Parent

Apr 13, 2018

Becoming a foster parent is an extremely special gift that you can give a troubled child. You're helping children have better lives and providing them with the stability and love they're desperately seeking. Opening up your home as well as your heart will teach you so many things. Whether you have a child for a few weeks or a few months, you have the opportunity to instill lifelong lessons, be a positive role model, and set a great example for what a healthy family operates like.

If you're considering fostering, there are a few things you should know before you bring a child into your home. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Preparing Your Home for a Foster Child

Before the child even steps foot into your home, it's best to be prepared. Placements can happen very quickly once you're approved to be a foster parent. 

Gather clothing of various sizes and for both genders, collect toiletry items such as toothbrushes, shampoo, etc., to ensure you're fully stocked with all the basic items they may need when they arrive. Lock away all medications, chemicals (cleaning supplies), and anything fragile (glass vases, sentimental objects) so they're completely inaccessible. Some foster kids come from destructive backgrounds and may abuse or break these items out of anger or stress.

This is the fun part, prepare a room for them! It's important the child has their own space for comfort, safety, and to make them feel like it's their home too. Since you'll have an extra mouth to feed, you'll need to make sure you're fully stocked with food. Pick up a special treat for them! After they arrive you can ask what their favorites are.

Organizing, cleaning, having some games/movies on hand, and stocking up on common healthcare items like painkillers and a thermometer is wise too.

Bringing the Child into Your Home

Having a child stay in your home can be stressful for everyone. Adding a child to your home is a personal experience, and getting comfortable will take some time. Try to remember to say "our" home rather than "my" home to make them feel more at ease. As soon as the child walks in the door, it's very important to establish yourself as a parent. Lay down the ground rules and what you expect of them. (Especially with older children). Ease their fears and relate to them that you're here to help them, provide them with basic necessities and to let you know if they're hungry, thirsty or feeling sick. 

Introduce the child to other family members and then give them a tour of your entire house, showing important things they'll need to know. End the tour with their bedroom and let them get acclimated with some alone time. They're probably feeling overwhelmed, so some personal space is important. Depending on the child's age, situation, and personality some of these details may need to be adjusted. Remember, every child is different!

Bonding Activities to Do with the Child

Simple activities can help make foster kids feel welcomed and loved. After a little while, hang pictures of them in your home. Read books together. Brush their hair while singing to them. Color, cook, and eat together. Go to the park, shopping, or movies together. Set up a solid bedtime routine every night. Paint their nails. There are so many activities you can do together that will strengthen the bond between you both.

Overall, the most important activity you can do with them is simply spending quality time with them.

Reuniting the Child with their Family

The best way to set the entire situation up for success is by forming a good relationship with the foster child's family right from the start. When speaking to the child's family don't use negative or cruel words or bring up the past. Communicate and keep talking after the child has been reunited. Keep an open line of communication to discuss behaviors, how the child is transitioning, who's handling their homework, etc. Some of these conversations may seem uncomfortable but keep pushing to keep the lines of communication open for the child's best interest. You can also communicate through the child's social worker if that's easier.

Transitions are hard. Very hard. It can take weeks or even months to adjust depending on the child. Everyone's struggling with the change and going through some tough emotions. Remember these feelings are not going to last forever. You helped the child get through a tough chapter in their life. You provided love, support, and everything they needed when they had no one else to turn to. Pat yourself on the back and feel proud. Give yourself some time to recover, and then get ready to open your home to the next child who needs you.

Being a foster parent is extremely meaningful and rewarding. For more information or to apply to be a foster parent, contact Kids Crossing today.