There are many reasons why people become foster parents. Some want to help a child in need. Some want to continue being a parent after their own natural children have grown up and left the house. Others are unable to have children of their own, and want to have the opportunity to help a child grow and succeed in life.
Becoming a foster parent is a long-term commitment. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. It can greatly impact your current life, your family and other children who may already be in the home. It can also be a great financial and emotional burden on some people.
There are many children in foster care every year who are looking for good adult role models. Lisa Witter from PerpetualFostering.co.uk explains that on average children in the foster care system stay there for about three years. Foster care can be beneficial for children who are not able to live with family members or friends, but there are some gaps that can exist in terms of providing necessary medical service and the emotional connections that they need.
Here are 5 things to know if you’re eligible to be a foster parent:
1. You can’t do it alone.
Every parent needs a good support system. Having family members, friends and other foster parent networks in your corner can help you get through the bad days. They can also provide extra encouragement and motivation on the good days. Talk to your family members and close friends before the foster child arrives in your home, so that they understand the changes that you’ll probably be going through. This can not only help to give you peace of mind, but it can help those people understand how this change will affect them as well.
2. Plan your budget.
Welcoming a foster child into your home can be an additional financial burden to some. You have to factor in the cost of their meals, clothing, schooling and other expenses. Take some time to review your current budget and allow some room for the anticipated costs that are part of raising a child. This might be a good time to cut any unnecessary expenses, or find new ways to stretch your dollars. Set a monthly and annual budget with enough wiggle room, so that you aren’t caught off guard by any unexpected items.
3. They may not open up to you right away.
Foster children are often dealing with parents or other adult family members who have been battling addiction issues, financial problems or have run into trouble with the law. The child may have emotional, mental or developmental difficulties. Change can be very difficult for children of any age. Talk to the social worker before the child first enters your home so that you fully understand what the child may be dealing with. Give them plenty of space, and respect their boundaries. You may want to ask them a lot of questions at first, but they usually aren’t ready to handle that right away. They will probably open up to you after enough time and patience.
4. Be prepared for interruptions.
Children who are being raised by foster families have to deal with frequent visits from their social workers, therapists and other related personnel. You’ll have to be prepared to deal with these visits, which can be seen as disruptions in your family life. Keep an open mind, and realize that such visits are meant to improve the child’s overall well-being. They’re a necessary evil at times, but they are intended to help make things better, not worse.
5. You’ll learn to love them and they will learn to love you.
Foster children are sometimes angry and upset. They miss their parents or other siblings who they may have been separated from. They are often confused or distraught about the situation. This has nothing to do with you. Be there for them the best that you can, and continue to offer them support whenever you can. Feel free to ask them questions, especially if their behavior seems unusual. It can take weeks, months or even years, but eventually they will feel just like another member of the family. Fostering isn’t permanent, but the bonds created during the experience can last a lifetime. The more time that you spend with them, the more that you will usually grow to love them, and the more they will grow to love you and your family.
These are just some things to keep in mind if you’re considering becoming a foster parent. It’s a great opportunity to help improve a child’s life, but it won’t be easy. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome, and there may be some growing pains that you have to endure. The risks are well worth the rewards. You can feel proud knowing that you are making a difference in a child’s life and providing them with opportunities and hope that they might not otherwise have had. You can help set them on the right path for a strong, successful future.