THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE FOSTERING
Fostering brings unique experiences and challenges which will require you to look at your life from different perspectives. As you think through this decision and whether or not it’s the right fit for your family, we encourage to spend some time reflecting on the following questions and reviewing them with your support network and your licensing worker if/when you move forward.
Taking time to focus on your reactions and answers to these questions will help you better understand your areas of strengths, as well as those that will benefit from additional support, education and guidance. Not all of the questions below will apply to every family or situation, but rather, encompasses a wide range of possibilities which may apply to traditional or relative/kinship care.
The first questions you need to consider are: What is your motivation for becoming a foster or kinship parent? Do you want to give back to the community? Is it a calling? Did a relative or someone you consider kin ask you to care for their children? Do you feel obligated? There are many different reasons for wanting to be a foster parent, consider your reasons as you think through the questions below.
Understanding Child’s Experience
- What books have you read that are written by adults who were in foster care?
- Have you attended a workshop with a panel of adults who were in foster care?
- How would you handle things when your foster child is skeptical of you or has conflicting loyalties between you and their family?
- Are you expecting your foster child to trust you right away or are you willing to wait weeks or months?
- Picture how you will react when your foster child exhibits a behavior you’ve never done or seen someone do. Would you be able to put the behavior aside and think about the reasons behind it?
Race and Culture
- Are you comfortable engaging in challenging and respectful conversations about racial, cultural and socioeconomic differences?
- Will you make every effort to increase understanding of, and respect for, the religious, racial and cultural heritage, and sexual orientation and gender identity of a child and their family?
- Is the community in which you reside culturally diverse? What resources are available in your community to help support children from diverse backgrounds? Are you willing to identify your own “inherent racial bias? Begin to read books about how people of color are portrayed along racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
- Do you have friends or family of different races and cultures?
- How are you prepared to incorporate your foster child(ren)’s race and culture into your daily life?
- Are you willing to put yourself in situations where you will be the minority, so your foster child won’t be?
- Are you willing to face the tough stuff in your foster child’s history and come to terms with how it makes you feel?
- Do you think you’ll be able to talk to your foster child about their early life experiences in a way that doesn’t label or blame them or the family they were removed from?
- Do you understand that even if your foster child has experienced abuse, they may still love their family and have positive memories of them? How will you honor these feelings?
- Are you willing to maintain safe connections to people who were important in your child’s life before you knew them including but not limited to siblings, parents, extended family, clergy, teachers, coaches, etc.?
- Do you expect that your foster child will be grateful?
- Do you have set expectations about your foster child will integrate into family life (i.e. tidiness, grades, sports)? How will you feel when these expectations aren’t met?
- In what ways do you expect to bond to your foster child right away? How will you feel if that doesn’t happen?
- Do you have difficult experiences from your own childhood that may impact your ability to parent a child with a traumatic history? What have you done to work through these issues? What can you do to keep these emotions separate from caring for your foster child?
- Can you think of a time in your life where you needed persistence? What things helped you move forward during this difficult time? Was this example something that took one week, one month, one year of hard work?
- Are you willing to let go of your views on consequences to make your relationship with your foster child a priority?
- How will you respond if your plan for the day gets unexpectedly changed due to your foster child’s needs or behaviors?
- Do you have a boss who will be understanding of your family life that includes stress, many appointments, phone calls at work, leaving for emergencies, etc.?
- Will you be open to therapists and foster professionals telling you to try a way of parenting that is different than what you experienced as a child or how you may have parented other children?
- How would you describe your level of patience when children exhibit challenging behavior?
- How do you handle a stressful day at work or confrontation with a family member or friend?
- What do you do each day to maintain balance?
- How good are you at forgiving yourself and others?
- What are some examples of how you deal with anger?
- Your foster child will likely have experienced neglect or abuse. What resources are you aware of to support a child with a trauma history?
- Are you someone who readily asks for help or likes to figure it out on your own?
- Do you know someone who has been in foster care or a foster parent? Do you feel comfortable talking to them about their experiences?
- Who are the support people in your life that you can call when you’re struggling?
- Are you open to using foster care related services to gain more education and resources?
Advocating for Child
- How will you educate family and friends on an ongoing basis to help them understand your foster child’s needs?
- Are you willing to be a persistent voice for your foster child, so they receive the educational and support services needed to succeed, even when you feel you’re not being heard or understood?
- Are you willing to have tough conversations with people who don’t understand your foster child or who don’t respect your foster child’s life experience?
- Therapy/skills/PCA services are often recommended for youth in care. Are you willing to allow service providers to come into your home (sometimes several times a week) in the best interest of the children? Or are you willing to transport the child to services out of your area, if they are the best option for the child?
- Are you open to learning new or different parenting and discipline strategies?
- Are you willing to allow visitation with parents or other family members to occur in your home?
- Are you willing to support friendships even if the friend lives out of your area?
- Will children be involved in extracurricular, social, and cultural activities appropriate for their age and abilities while residing in the home?
- Are you able to support reunification even if you don’t believe it is in the best interest of the child?
- Are you willing to be the concurrent planning option for youth in your home?