Ever thought of fostering?
Being a foster parent, I often get questions about my experiences. Being a young foster family, we’re often asked why we do this when we have young children of our own. As a family that has been blessed with the children who have come into our home, I thought I would compile some of my thoughts, some of our experiences, and some general tips I’ve learned over the last year.
First, it’s difficult, but so worth it! I’m not sure about the rules where you live, but here in MO the rules are fairly basic: you have to have enough income that you live “comfortably” (they don’t want you to have to rely on any kind of stipend, but they don’t expect you to be well off), you have to have bedroom space (in MO it’s same gender rooms once they’re 6, under 2 can share with adults, but in IL once kids are 13 they have to have their own rooms…check your local rules), and usually you can’t have more than 5 kids under the age of 18 in your household.
Suggestions from our experiences:
Don’t take a placement that is the same age as your oldest.A few years older or younger works (depending on the age of your children), but these are kids dealing with troubles and you have to discipline differently than with your children who have always been with you. We had one placement that was our oldest’s age and he had no sense of right or wrong, what was okay, how to interact or anything. We had to do all redirection and positive reinforcement (basically like working with toddler). My son knew there was a double standard and would get upset and my daughter started picking up the bad behavior. Kids know that behavior expectations are different for different ages, so we’ve had a lot more success with either kids a few years older or with babies and toddlers. Also, if your child is old enough to be established as the oldest, you may have difficulties having older children in your home. Our son has never had concerns with older children and loves having an occasional big brother or sister.
Never get your hopes up, just love the kids. We thought both of our initial placements would become permanent members of our family. Within a week of each other (one had been with us 4 months and the other 3 and had only ever been with us), family members did a quick turnaround and decided to step up and take them. But these are kids who have often never been truly loved and often have never had anything of their own. Spend one-on-one time with them, read stories, go to the park, buy them something special. Make sure they feel a part of your family. It may hurt more emotionally when they’re leaving, but you’ll have no regrets and they’ll have positive memories.
You don’t have to take every placement. Talk to the caseworkers, hear their story, make sure they’ll fit. Sometimes you have crazy weeks. Sometimes you just need a break. Sometimes you just get a feeling. It’s okay to say no. We have only received calls for teenagers over the last few months, and while we have had mostly good experiences with teens, it’s very difficult to parent more than a few years older than your current experiences and even more difficult trying to make everyone feel a part of the family when they don’t “fit” actual or emotional age-wise.
Don’t say no to something just because it sounds out of your comfort zone. Our first placement was a 15 year old boy who was developmentally 8. He was so sweet, helpful, and fit perfectly with our family. Even with knowing we’d have to parent him for the rest of our lives, we were ready to become legal guardians. It was heartbreaking when we didn’t get that option, but thankfully we still see him almost weekly and often go to lunch on Sundays with him and his grandparents. Our second placement was a baby born at 24 weeks drug addicted. She came home from the hospital with us on a heart monitor and oxygen…and I was 3 months pregnant! The first few weeks were rough, but she quickly developed and did wonderfully. She just needed a family to love her! I used to get regular updates from her 3rd cousin that now has adopted her.
Get to know your caseworkers. They’re a valuable resource while your children are with you. They’ll keep you updated when the kids have moved. They’ll enjoy working with you and see kids that they know will fit with your family and call you first! (this part can also be hard because sometimes they want to work with you so bad and you feel bad for saying no to kids that just won’t work with your family).
Get as involved with the child’s family as you feel comfortable with. Don’t forget that the goal is to get them back with their family, and you can be support, a resource, and stay involved in their lives. Give them your number, go out with them for dinner (if you’ve been approved by the caseworker), help them feel comfortable with you and how you’re taking care of their child. Remember, these are parents who have made a mistake and just want their kids. Support them and encourage them. (Not all cases are good, but there are also grandparents, aunts and uncles that you can do this with).
You can change a child’s life by opening your home. Let me know if you have any question!!!