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.