While fostering can be a beyond beautiful and rewarding experience, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t come without its difficulties. To help prepare you for the obstacles you may encounter, we’ve developed a list of the top 5 things to keep in mind before you begin this journey.
Children are not removed from their homes without a cause. Many of these kids have experienced unimaginable abuse and neglect that emotionally and sometimes physically scars them. These children are left to process their trauma, and naturally, it becomes your responsibility as a parent to help them overcome it. This can become overwhelming after a time; you may feel yourself wrapped up in the trauma yourself, and even suffer from the effects of it. It is important, therefore, to learn more about secondary trauma and mentally prepare yourself for it.
No matter how difficult things may get at times, it is vital to remember the situation at hand. Your child has suffered immense hardship and may lash out in response. They may struggle with managing their anger or emotions, and it is your duty as a foster parent to continue giving them the love, care, and patience they need to recover. Remember, it’s not you — they have a lot more going on than you think and they simply might not know how to handle it all.
You do not have to handle all of this on your own. While therapy might be a good thing for your child, — and is often recommended or court-mandated — it can be an amazing resource for you as well. Having someone there to listen to your concerns, talk you through your difficulties, and help you maintain a healthy mindset can have an extremely positive impact on your journey as a foster parent, and make the process easier for both you and your child. Joining a support group with other parents facing the same challenges, or following foster parent blogs with different stories and tips are additionally great ways to find comfort and encouragement as you go through this transition.
There will be moments in which you will feel that you have no say or direction. When it comes to your child’s emotions, feelings, and actions, the only thing you can control is your own reaction to it and the perception of their behaviors. Court appointments, therapy sessions, parent-teacher conferences… all of those are simply things you must get accustomed to, as you do not have a say in the legal requirements surrounding your child’s situation. You must learn to be patient, accommodating, and most of all, supportive during this time for your own sake and your family’s.
Foster care is intended to be temporary, with the goal of reuniting the child with his or her biological family. Your child will most likely miss their parents, and it is your responsibility to be understanding and help them keep a positive outlook, no matter how much you may disagree with their parenting prior to the separation. You may also grow to love this child and become attached to them. While there are some instances where adoption becomes an option, again, this care is designed to allow time for the parents to make the necessary changes to be able to raise their own child once more. It is normal, and healthy even, to become attached, and demonstrating love and care towards this child may help them immensely in their development. However, it is important to understand that this placement may, in fact, be short-lived, and you must be prepared to handle that potential separation.
This list isn’t designed to scare you away from the idea of foster care — but it is important to keep in mind the difficulties that you may face, and prepare for them accordingly. Keep in mind also that every situation is unique, and what you may encounter may be entirely different from someone else’s experience. The most important part to consider in the end is the positive impact you can have on a child’s life by opening your heart and home to them.