Have you thought about becoming a foster parent, but you’re just not sure if this is the right decision for you? Here are some questions you should ask yourself that can help you make the right decision for you and your family.
Is Fostering Right for You?
- Do you believe the only thing foster children need is a lot of love?
- Do you feel foster children are easy to please because they are just happy to have a home?
- Do you view fostering as a way to rescue children from a difficult situation?
- Do you feel you can relate to children going through rough times?
- Do you feel the financial support provided for foster care will help meet all your household expenses?
- Do you feel that since you did a pretty good job with your children you’ll be a good foster parent? Do you feel that you have to be a parent first in order to be a foster parent?
- Do you have a strong support system that can help your provide quality care to a foster child?
- If you agree to open your home to foster a child from a different racial/cultural/ethnic background, are you able and willing to promote the child’s culture and traditions?
- Do you know how fostering might impact your relationship? If you are married or in a serious relationship, can you show the relationship is stable, committed and mutually satisfactory?
- Are you willing to work as a team member with the child, the biological family, social worker and other professionals?
- Do you currently suffer or have you recently (in the last 12 months) suffered from major physical or emotional illness?
- Do you have criminal record?
- Have you been involved with our department regarding the safety and security of a child or adult?
- Do you have an ability and desire to increase your foster parenting skills (through training) and to help others acquire these skills?
While a lot of love is a nice thing to provide, foster parents also need to have good parenting and communications skills and an understanding of their role as foster parents. Being patient, consistent and following through on rules and expectations are all important.
While many foster children are happy to have a home, they may not be so easy to please. Some will test your patience by acting up, being sad and/or shy. Don’t expect foster children to be extra grateful or obedient. They didn’t ask to be put in their position.
Folks who have a rescue approach to foster care are likely to resist reasonable contact with the foster child’s birth parents. This may also get in the way of efforts to reunite families. Remember that foster care is temporary and your goal should be to work with professionals so families are reunited whenever possible and in the best interests of the child.
If you were a foster child or experienced other significant hurdles, you indeed “know what it’s like”. Even if you didn’t have a difficult childhood you feel able to understand how troubling childhood can be. This will increase your skills as a foster parent. Be cautious, however, if you feel your childhood experiences have left you angry, depressed or resentful. Strong negative emotions from your own childhood could hinder your efforts to be a positive parent figure. If you feel you have such difficulties to a significant degree, you should seek personal counselling before becoming a foster parent.
Being a foster parent should not result in financial sacrifice. However, nobody should decide to become a foster parent because they think it will help them financially.
Having been a successful parent indicates that you have certain skills and personality traits that make you an effective parent. Wanting to use these talents to help out as a foster parent is a plus. Keep in mind; you don’t need to have gone through the experience of parenting your own children to be a great foster parent.
Fostering can be challenging, and there will likely be times when you need to rest and refocus. To ensure the children in your care continue to receive the supervision, care and support they need during these times, it’s important you have a strong support network, including friends, relatives and community agencies that can help you.
When a child is placed in a foster home, the new environment can feel very different than the one on which they were raised. This can lead to confusion and even distress. To help ease the transition and support the healthy development of the child’s positive racial and cultural identity, it’s important that you’re willing to integrate the child’s culture into your family’s routine and encourage the child to maintain his or her cultural identity.
All members of a family have a role to play in raising and caring for a foster child. It’s also important that foster children have stability so they can feel secure in their new home. Further, children who observe health relationships will be able to model their own relationships in the same way as they grow older.
Being a foster parent means being part of a team. You need to work with the child’s social worker, the biological family and other professionals who are helping the child to make sure both you and your foster child are getting the right support and help.
Fostering takes work. You must be in good physical and emotional health to provide quality, consistent care to a foster child.
To be approved as a foster parent, you need to get a criminal record check. Having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a foster parent. If you have been convicted of an offence of a violent or sexual nature, your application will be denied. As part of the process, you will have an opportunity to discuss your criminal record and its implications.
Again to be approved as a foster parent you must agree to a Social Development Record Check to determine if you have endangered the safety and security of a child or adult and this is recorded in our files. Depending on the nature of the contravention your application to foster could be denied.
To help you provide quality care to foster children, you’ll need to take regular training. Training covers a wide range of topics from child development to the special needs of the children in government care. It will also give you the opportunity to hone and broaden your skills and learn from, and get to know, other foster parents.
Reprinted with permission from the Province of Alberta and Richard Brozovich, Oakland Schools , Waterford . MI