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.