Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Want to Become A Foster Parent?

Recently I shared some info about the legal requirements to becoming a foster parent, such as age considerations.  In the past I've written about health and safety requirements to foster- which will vary from state to state (and country).

Although getting your house ready, filling out all of the required paperwork and completing training hours are all vital and necessary parts of preparing to welcoming a foster child into your home, I have found that the hardest part of fostering for me has been the emotional aspects which begs the question, How does one prepare for the roller coaster of feelings that come with fostering that can really take a toll on your emotions?

I guess my answer is that I think there are some things you just have to experience to truly understand. However, I recently came across a blog post from a very seasoned foster and adoptive mother which contained such good advice that I wish I had had these concepts firmly etched in my mind when we first considered and started fostering. Even if someone hasn't yet experienced something, having some sort of idea or outlook of what to expect could at least help them make an easier adjustment to the situation.   Therefore, I am going to refer anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to these pieces of advice Felicia shared by clicking HERE.

"So you get the kids settled in and the journey begins.  This could be short term or years.  They could tell you it is short term but that doesn't always mean anything.  The thing to remember at this stage is that your job is to foster the children.  Do not start talking about how much you want to adopt the child at this stage.  Do not try to sabotage the parents.  At this point you should be working with the parents, reunification is the plan.  You should develop a relationship with the parents.  I still have relationships with some of my foster children who went home and their parents."

Absolutely!  I've been a little slow to learn that fostering is not just about providing a refuge for a child, but giving families another chance to stay together- which includes respecting and working with bio families.  This, of course, is not always easy.  

Although I knew in my mind when we first began fostering that reunification was the intention, that purpose would compete or become overshadowed with the desires of my heart to adopt a child.  Which leads to the next bit of sound advice Felicia shares:

"If you are doing foster parent because of a burning desire to adopt be aware that adoption may not happen for years.  You may have many kids in your home before a case goes to adoption.  Or your first case may.  Be prepared to support reunification because that is what foster care is.  Be prepared to be heartbroken, because all foster parents are at one time or another."

Another important thing I've come to learn is that you may not necessarily fall in love with every single child that is placed in your home- and do you know what?  That's okay!  It doesn't mean you're a terrible person- it means you're human.  Felicia goes on to say, 

"Foster parenting can be a challenge but it can also be a joy.  Some kids will steal your heart and others you will be glad to see them go home.  You never know what to expect and should be prepared for anything."

In connection with that thought, if you happen to be someone who feels the call and responsibility to help children through fostering, don't feel guilty if you can't "save" them all!  It's okay to say "no" to a placement if the timing isn't right or for whatever reason you don't feel good about it.  Similarly, It's okay to take a break.  I would even add, it is sometimes necessary to take a break so that you don't risk becoming burnt out.

One other critical piece of advice Felicia shares is:

"It is always good to have some support from your local foster parents or others who have fostered.  Others really won't understand all that you are dealing with."  Amen to that!

It is such a relief when I come across something that another foster parent has shared and I end up thinking- "Yes- they get it.  They really understand!"  or "I'm not the only one who's been through this before."

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