What Is Foster Parenting?
Foster parenting can take many forms. Variables on child age, placement term, and connections with biological parents vary greatly. Amidst that variety, there are some constants. Let’s take a look at the core principles behind all foster care in Washington State.
- Foster parents provide temporary care for a child or youth whose parents are unable to care for them for a number of reasons.
- Foster parents are not a child’s legal parents.
- Reunification is the goal of foster care, and foster parents support that goal.
- Foster parents offer a safe and loving home for a child.
- Foster parenting is not always easy. It’s often hard. It’s often frustrating. But it is always worth it.
Why Is Reunification the Goal?
Reunification is when a foster child returns to live with their biological parents. For foster parents, reunification can be difficult, especially after they’ve bonded with their foster child. But, it’s important for all foster parents to understand that reunification is the goal in the majority of foster care situations.
The benefits of reunification include …
- Better permanency outcomes for children, so they’re less likely to have to change homes again
- Positive impact on the lives of biological parents, because taking care of their child means they’re more likely to lead healthier lives
- Better development outcomes for children who can grow up at home with their biological parents
Foster parents should expect to actively participate in supporting reunification by …
- Coordinating supervised visits with biological parents.
- Encouraging a positive relationship between children and their parents.
- Working with agencies to foster reunification however they can.
We understand reunification is hard, but it’s the best outcome for everyone involved. And, for foster parents, there are abundant resources to support you when your child transitions back to their home.
The Typical (And Not-So-Typical) Foster Parent Experience
Typical - Josh and the Selembo Family
When Josh was born, he tested positive for drugs. Both his parents were addicts. At just three months old, he transitioned into foster care with the Selembo family. At the same time, Josh’s dad went into rehab. His mom did not. Throughout the next year, Josh’s dad fought his addiction and got better. He began visiting Josh and the Selembo family.
After a year, Josh’s dad was ready to bring him home. The Selembos continued to support the family, watching Josh on weekdays while his father was at work, and they continue to be close friends, helping each other whenever necessary to foster a safe, happy life for Josh.
Not-So-Typical Story - Carrie, Elyse, and the Ellis Family
The Ellis family took in Elyse when she was four years old. Her mother, Carrie, had given birth when she was just 14 and couldn’t care for Elyse. Then, came a surprise. Carrie entered the foster care system, and the Ellises welcomed her into their home.
With support from the Ellis family, Carrie got a job worked to afford a new car, and to afford a new apartment. Eventually, Elyse and Carrie left the Ellis household as a new, stable family of their own. And when Carrie got pregnant again, Mrs. Ellis acted as her coach, fostering continued support for Carrie, Elyse, and Elyse’s new baby brother.