In today's entry we are going to outline some of the things parents in foster care should keep in mind when caring for children. This post was a collaborative effort, so a special thank you to the executive team. Without further ado, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Most children in foster care are in the system through no fault of their own. This is a large factor a lot of foster parents tend to forget about. It is easy to see negative behavior and blame the child. It is much harder to see the cause of the negative behavior. It should be no surprise that a majority of foster parents fail because of this difficulty, and only the ones who see the root of the issues can rise up to stop it. Rising up to face the challenges involved in helping children in need is one of the greatest privileges of becoming a foster parent.
2. Social workers are there, but they are not the parent. It can be easy to think - from a foster parent's point of view - that social workers are some sort of de facto guardian for a child in foster care. It may be true in some cases to a very limited extent, but for the vast majority it is not. Another thing parents in foster care may not realize is just how high the turnover rate in social work actually is. There are a lot of reasons for this, but they are beyond the point, which is that parents in foster care need to be prepared to be a loving parent first, instead of relying on others to do the parenting for them. And what is more, they need to be prepared to be alone in that endeavor, because sometimes, they will be.
3. Children in foster care are largely normal. Depending on who you talk to, this one may be controversial, but in our professional experience, the children in foster care are pretty normal. They want the same things that other children want, but most of them just do not have it. A normal life. A place to live. Food to eat. Friends. These may seem like really simple things, and yet almost children in foster care want is a loving home that provides them. If it seems easy to you then become a foster parent. You may just save a child’s life.
4. Children in foster care need a parent, not a guardian. Regardless of the status of a child's foster care placement, most children in foster care need a parent before they need a guardian. Whether the goal is to reunite the child with the biological family, or to wait out the issues that have risen, or just to provide a loving home - being a loving parent is the first and final step in every single case of child care. That should be no surprise, since the goal of foster care is to place children of need into homes with a caregiver, someone who can provide the love and support that they need to be successful.
5. It will be difficult. So what? Yes, it will be difficult to parent children in foster care. Some children fight it, some even bite. There is a reason states provide training in addition to a screening process for people that want to become a parent in foster care. It is a system that is designed for the needs of the child, not the needs of the parent. If you are a parent and you are struggling with that notion, being a parent in foster care is not for you. It is not worth the time, the money, or the energy. And most importantly, it is a huge disservice to the child and to the surrounding community. Foster care is a challenge, but one should only take it on when they are ready.
Do not be a foster parent because it suits you. Be a foster parent because you want to help children in need.
Written by: Alexander S.
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