TAGS: Becoming A Foster Parent
Written by Washington Foster Team
There’s a lot of information on our site and elsewhere about being a foster parent. One of our favorites is an article titled “31 Things I’ve Learned About Foster Care”.
In the article, writer Amanda offers an exhaustive look at her own experience of being a foster parent for the first time. Some of what she writes is simple, good advice, such as making sure you have a support group, and some of it is practical, such as how to approach supervised visits from social workers or others involved in the child's life. It’s all worth reading.
That being said, there are some things we want to emphasize about being a foster parent — some of which are not covered in Amanda’s article.
Here are a few things you can do to mentally prepare for becoming a foster parent:
- Be as flexible as possible
- Be willing to collaborate often
- Take care of yourself and your family
- Advocate for your foster child
- Maintain emotional control
- Prepare your home and family in advance
1. Be Flexible
Flexibility is extremely important when working within the foster care system. Be ready for hoops to jump through, appointments to keep, and check-ins from social workers and therapists.
It's also something that will most likely naturally develop over your time as a foster parent. Successful foster parents quickly learn how to adapt and decide what things are really important. Give up the little things, let go, and learn to trust.
2. Be Willing To Collaborate Often
When so many people are involved, collaboration is the only way to ensure the foster child gets the quality of care they deserve. Expect to work with all types of people and personalities.
You will be meeting with a caseworker on a regular basis to check in on your foster child. Depending on the circumstance, it's also often essential to build a relationship with the child's biological family.
This process may prove one of the most challenging of them all — but remember that reunification results in stabilization. And stabilization results in a happy, healthy life.
3. Take Care Of Yourself
Self-care is important, since parenting a child in foster care can get difficult and sometimes emotional. Make sure to make time for yourself. The only way you can take care of a foster child’s needs is if you’re meeting your own.
Some ways to do this can be found in point #5, as these are closely related, but the options are limitless. You may have some false guilt for prioritizing your needs over your own — and that's completely normal. The next time you have false guilt, remember: taking care of yourself is not selfish. After all, if you can't take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of others?
4. Advocate For Your (Foster) Child
Advocacy for the foster child is critical. You need to make sure their needs are met at school and at home, and that they have access to the services they need.
If they don't, talk to your caseworker, the school, and anyone else who can help you make sure your foster child's life is stable and happy. Remember, you're not in this alone and you're not expected to have all the answers. Reach out for help when you need it — the child is worth it.
5. Maintain Emotional Control
Emotional regulation is necessary to provide a stable environment for your foster child. Keep your emotions in check, have patience, and remember you have support.
Trust us — we know this is easier said than done. Some ways you can help improve your emotional control include:
- Get outside — take a walk, even a short 5-minute one around the block, to clear your head
- Talk to loved ones — they may not always understand what you're going through, but hopefully you have someone on your side who can listen and support
- Join a support group — there are plenty of support groups around Washington State that are great for helping foster parents through this time
- Take some time for yourself — this goes back to point #3: take care of yourself; put your own oxygen mask on before anyone else's, or else you won't be able to help them
6. Prepare Your Home and Family
If an agency were to call you today with a potential placement, would you be ready to take them in? Unless you've been preparing for this moment, then the answer is most likely "not at all."
Logistically, there's a lot you can and should be doing to prepare both your home and your family for a foster child. These include:
- Having conversations with your family
- Making sure you have enough rooms and beds for foster children as well as any biological children you may already have
- Ensuring your house has enough safety measures
- Ensure your family meets the basic income requirements
- You can accept the unknowns of fostering and aren't solely interested in fostering-to-adopt
To help you prepare, we've created a free checklist you can download here.
Additionally, if you're looking for more information and advice on foster parenting, download our free resource The Essential Guide To Becoming A Foster Parent In Washington State.