TAGS: Becoming A Foster Parent
Written by Washington Foster Team
The decision to foster a child isn't always an easy one to make. Just as parenting your own child is a daunting prospect, so too is parenting someone else’s child. But even though there are unique challenges when fostering a child, and you may feel like you’re not ready because of your financial situation, your family situation, or any number of other valid concerns, it is also an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience for all involved.
And, as they say, there’s no time like the present. So, if you’ve been thinking about fostering a child for a while, here are five reasons to stop thinking about it — and just do it.
There’s a real need.
One of the hard-to-measure rewards of being a foster parent is the sense of fulfillment you have when you can help someone who truly needs it.
There are thousands of kids within the foster care system — as of August of last year, there were 7,600 children in Washington state’s care — who have experienced trauma and need safe, loving, and supportive homes in which to heal. And while the intention is for it to only be a temporary stay until they can be reunified with their parents, you can make a huge impact by providing exactly that.
You can change someone’s life.
When a child’s life has been marked by instability or trauma, a safe, kind, and supportive adult figure is needed to set an example of how life can and should be. And while that task may seem daunting, it’s less about the herculean actions and grand gestures and more about the small, everyday actions.
Establishing and sticking to a routine, keeping the lights on at night because it helps them feel more secure, or simply listening to them if and when they want to talk — these are all examples of small actions that make a huge difference, especially over time.
Some days will be easier than others — it takes time to heal and to build a child’s faith in adult figures — but those small gestures of kindness and support can truly change a child’s life for the better.
You’ll develop lifelong relationships.
The bond you and your foster child share is special. Investing in those relationships is a worthwhile and long-term reward.
You won’t just form a bond with them either. You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with the parents themselves. And they’ll inspire you. Foster mom Kristina tells the story of a parent of one of her foster children who struggled with addiction. After her child was placed into foster care, “Her mom turned it around. She fought so hard for her child and now she’s a mentor for other people going through the same thing. She’s on top of the world now and helping others. And to see her is just so inspiring for me.”
Lastly, there is a whole community of caregivers, one that often goes unnoticed by those outside of the foster care system, going through similar challenges and triumphs. They will welcome and support you throughout your foster-parenting journey and beyond.
You will gain a new perspective.
Most children enter foster care after having experienced some sort of trauma. They may have been abused or neglected, and they may have experienced firsthand the struggles of living with family members who have battled some sort of addiction.
But for many foster parents, this may not be a world that’s familiar to them. As a result, you have the potential to learn as much from them as they will learn from you.
And for those who already have children, you may be understandably apprehensive about exposing them prematurely to some of these aspects of life. But when that’s done properly and with care, it can expand your children’s horizons and teach them important lessons about compassion and empathy.
Things will fall into place.
Certain times may be better than others to make such a significant life change. But like with all major life decisions, if you’re waiting for the perfect time, you’ll likely be waiting for quite a while. Sometimes you simply have to take a deep breath, dive in, and feel your way around.
You’ll find a way to make the finances work, to find that extra space in your home, and to adjust your schedule to fit another child’s needs.
Kristina agrees: “There’s never going to be that ‘today’s the day’ moment or sign. You adapt.” That is, if you’ve been thinking about what becoming a foster parent means, and you believe it’s the right choice for you, the rest will fall into place once the decision is made and the first steps are taken.
Remember, too, that you are not alone. You have a network of individuals within the foster care system that are working towards a common goal: your foster child’s success. So, although it may be a daunting prospect, there will be many people, from caseworkers to other foster parents, that can guide you through the licensing process and provide training and support as you parent your first foster child.
Take the first step and explore whether foster parenting is right for you. Enroll in our new eight-part webinar course on foster parenting, which covers everything from how you become a licensed foster parent to the complexities and everyday joys you will encounter while parenting. Click here to register now.