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Becoming Foster Parents

Updated on July 2, 2011

Becoming foster parents: The right attitude

I spent a significant portion of my career providing support and parent education for foster parents who were often struggling with the daily issues they faced while caring for often demanding and challenging high needs children. The parents who were most successful at becoming foster parents were the ones who realized they needed to keep a good sense of humor and maintain the ability to forge ahead and do whatever it takes even in the most difficult times. They were committed and did not allow themselves to ever get too down or pessimistic. They often found ways to get moments for themselves so they could rejuvenate and move forward in their efforts to try to improve the lives of kids who often did not have a very good start in life. They often took on this task because even though it would be difficult and draining at times they felt a sense of obligation to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.


Becoming Foster Parents: It's more than just foster kids

Becoming foster parents can be extremely rewarding for both foster parents and foster children but it is definitely not for everyone. Before making the commitment to becoming foster parents, there are some very important considerations to make. The goal of foster parenting is to be able to help stabilize and nurture a child who will usually eventually be returned to his or her natural parent or parents. This can be incredibly difficult for many parents as it is only natural to become attached to the kids in our care. If parents know they will be unable to deal with the eventual return of a child they should not consider fostering.

Further, foster parents may be asked to interact with the natural parents and in some cases act as role models and parent educators for the birth parents who may be struggling in their abilities to parent well. The birth parents can often display signs of resentment and jealousy and can be very critical of foster parents. Birth parents often feel a need to prove that the professional caregiver is in no better position to raise their kids than they are. In some cases birth parents may be struggling with psychological issues and addiction problems. As a result foster parents need to be able to remain very professional and supportive despite potential conflicts as trying to support the natural parents is in the long term interest of the child.

Becoming foster parents: Big adjustments

Becoming a foster parent can seriously turn your life upside down. During the initial transition period foster parents can sometimes experience a honeymoon but this usually changes as the child will often act out and externalize the many issues and conflicts they are experiencing. It can also put a serious strain on other members of the family and affect the relationship of the foster parents. Foster children can be very demanding of foster parent’s time and they often require significant monitoring and parental interventions.

Many new foster parents are surprised by how little free time they have and how different raising a foster child can be from raising their own children. If foster parents still have their own children in the home they will need prepare them for the adjustment that will take placed. They will need to be aware that their parents will be splitting their attention between them and their new foster child. In many cases this may not be an even split even if the parents have good intentions because the foster child will have more pressing needs. Parents who are honest and can admit they already struggle in ways with raising their own children should reconsider if they are thinking about taking in a foster child or foster children.

Becoming foster parents: Do you have the time?

Becoming a foster parent can also place further demands on the foster family. In addition to the usual doctor and dentist appointments and foster children also tend to have visits with social workers, counseling appointments, court appointments, and extra school meetings and appointments. Foster parents need to be confident and competent in their abilities to meet and plan with the various childcare professionals in the child’s life. Foster children may also require a special plan of care and foster parents may have to be willing to take classes or courses to help them with their foster child’s needs. In many cases, a foster will have suffered from experiences such as neglect and combination of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Some children are may also suffer from physical and mental challenges that require extra care and attention on the part of a caregiver. They may suffer from a variety of ailments such as enuresis (bed wetting), learning challenges, and other physical and cognitive impairments. In many cases issues such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit disorder may also affect the child.

Becoming Foster Parents: It can be rewarding

Foster parenting can provide a lot of rewards but it requires dedication and commitment. It certainly isn’t for everyone. But if a potential foster parent is confident in their abilities and their belief that they can make a difference in a struggling child’s life, then they should seriously find out more about foster parenting in their area. The skills we are willing to bring and develop as professional foster parents can have a lasting and profound impact on a child’s life.

Foster parents can help foster children to grow to be productive and contributing people in the world. If a parent is serious about becoming a foster parent they should contact their local foster parents association or support group and spend some time speaking with other foster parents about the experience. The most important consideration in becoming a foster parent is to make an honest assessment of ones willingness and commitment to care for what may well be a high needs child for a significant length of time.


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