So you want to know how to be a good foster parent? You have embarked on the journey of foster parenting. You are uneasy, unsure and there are a lot of unknowns. How can you foster parent to the best of your ability?
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Foster care will bring you to your knees. You will have some amazing days and you will have some frustrating days. Days you just want it all to end. Pray your way through all the days. I believe God is near to foster parents. He sees you stepping into the broken and is an ever present comfort.
It’s been 4 years since I made that first phone call to start the process. It has been a learning journey ever since. Not just because what I have learned through experience but I am constantly trying to become a better foster parent. To understand trauma in children better, infant and child mental health, the effects of in utero substance abuse. The dynamic between bio parent and child when the trust has been broken. There are so many facets and so much to learn. Don’t just stop with the initial foster parenting training. There is so much out there to help you thrive as a foster parent.
3. Be available
Physically, mentally, emotionally. The best thing you can do as a foster parent is just to be available for the child in your care. Depending on their age and reasons why they came into care you may have kids that are super closed off, they don’t trust adults, they have a lot of anger and rage, they may be overly affectionate. It is going to be a learning experience as you navigate this new relationship. Be open and available for the child to process all of the emotions. Be the source of stability. Let them come to you with their upsets, anger, sadness and confusion. Be the constant in their life in this incredibly difficult time. Early on try to minimize time away from them as much as possible. Allow that trust to form between you before you try to parent too much.
Create a relationship with the bio family – The best thing you can do for your foster child is to get to know their parent or parents. Let them know you are there to support them, that you are in their corner. I talk more about supporting reunification here.
4. Find a good support system
I have discussed this before in the 11 tips for new foster parents post, but it is vital. You need to have other foster parents in your corner. As much as you think you have a great support system within your family and friends, when it really comes down to it, they don’t understand. There are a lot of days where you will frustrated at the workers, the judges, the bio parents. You need someone who gets all that!
5. Take time for you
It’s simple, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Caregiver burnout is real, secondary trauma is real. Being a foster mom is different then being a mom to biological children. There are so many other things you need to consider. Behaviors stemming from trauma can be tough. Other relationships in your life can become strained. You need to make time for you. Read your bible, workout, eat well, go out with your friends, make date night a priority.
These kids need you to be their voice. The goal of the foster care system is always reunification. They also say the goal is whatever is in the best interest of the child. Sadly I have seen this second one fail over and over again. You are the caring for the child. You see how everything is effecting them on a day to basis. Be their voice when they can’t. Speak up for their best interests.
7. GET INVOLVED
There are so many ways to get involved. Getting involved with various committees at your agency will be very beneficial to you as a foster parent. Not only for connection and support but it is very valuable to have staff from the agency know who you are. You may get the inside scoop, find our changes first and be involved with fundraisers or trainings and conferences. I choose to get involved in an online capacity. I love connecting with other foster and adoptive moms. Share resources and be a source of encouragement as well as try to inspire more people to get involved because good foster parents are so needed!