Foster Care

5 Things You Should Know Before Fostering

Like any journey worth taking, foster parenting comes with a learning curve. Here are five things you should know before you start!

Stepping into the world of foster care is like embarking on one of the most rewarding journeys you can imagine. It's a path filled with love, growth, and the chance to make a real difference in a child's life. 

But, like any journey worth taking, it comes with its share of challenges and learning curves. 

For anyone who's ever thought about opening their home and heart to a child in care, as well as those who are already on this incredible path, we can help.

Below, we'll dive into the heart of what it means to be a foster parent, covering everything from the importance of patience to the crucial role of self-care. 

Here are five things you should know before you start fostering!

1. Patience, Patience, Patience

If there's one thing you'll need an endless supply of as a foster parent, it's patience. It’s one of the most important pieces of advice we can give to new foster parents.

There’s a quote by Franklin P. that captures the essence of this concept well: “You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” It’s a funny quote, but it’s also a simple fact of life that patience will serve you well when working with children, teens, and other adults.

  • It takes children in care time to adjust to a new home, new faces, and new rules.
      • In many cases, a child in care may be living with trauma as a result of neglect or abuse.
      • It's natural for them to need extra time to feel safe and trust their new caregivers.
  • This journey of adjustment isn't just for them; it's for you too.
      • It's crucial to hold onto a flexible mindset about how quickly or smoothly things should progress.
      • Kids will be kids, and children in care are no exception.
      • Children in care might act out, withdraw, or show their fear in ways that are hard to predict. 
  • Remember, their small steps forward are big leaps in their world.
      • Adjusting your expectations doesn't mean lowering them but understanding that growth often looks different for each child.
      • What's quick for one might be slow for another, and that's okay!
  • When you notice these small steps, celebrate them!
      • Did they share a toy for the first time? Did they open up about their feelings, even just a little? These are the victories that pave the way for bigger ones.
      • Celebrating these moments encourages them and reminds you why patience is so powerful.
  • Be patient with yourself, too.
      • Remember that failing at something one day does not make you a failure — it just means things didn’t work out that day.
      • Give yourself the room you need to learn from small mistakes without holding onto them too tightly.

2. Communication is Key — Even When It’s Hard

Talking and listening might seem simple, but when you're a foster parent, they become key skills. 

  • Imagine how hard it is to open up to someone new, especially if you've been through tough times. That's often what foster kids feel.
  • They might struggle to put their feelings into words or show their emotions in ways we're not used to. 

This is where your superpower of listening comes into play.

  • Listening isn't just about hearing words; it's about understanding what's behind those words.
  • Creating a safe space for your foster child to share their thoughts and feelings, even if they do it in their own unique way, builds trust.
  • This trust tells them, "You're heard. You're valued. And you're safe here."

But what about when kids can't find the words to say how they feel? That's where non-verbal communication comes in.

  • A lot can be said without words. A hug, a smile, or sitting together in silence can speak volumes. 
  • Encouraging them to express themselves through art, music, or play can also open new doors to understanding.

These activities offer a different way to communicate, one that might feel safer for them.

3. The Learning Never Stops

As a foster parent, you'll find that the learning never really ends. 

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, you'll be reminded that each child has unique needs and challenges. 

This is why ongoing education is so crucial.

  • Workshops, books, and seminars aren't just additional tasks on your to-do list — they're opportunities to dive deeper into the complex world of foster care.
  • Additional skill development opportunities can help you better understand the children in your care on a level that goes beyond the surface. 
  • These educational tools can shed light on topics like trauma, behavioral challenges, and emotional support, equipping you with the knowledge to provide the best care possible.
  • Most states require ongoing learning and preservice sessions beyond the initial application process, too.
  • Check with the regulations of your state to learn the details! 

4. You’re Never Alone

Embarking on the journey of foster parenting might feel like stepping into the unknown, but it's important to remember that you're not doing this alone. There's a whole network of support ready to stand with you, both within the foster care system and in your wider community. 

  • Caseworkers, foster care support providers, and fellow foster parents are invaluable allies who understand the challenges and rewards of foster care.
  • These professionals and peers can offer guidance, advice, and support based on years of experience.
  • They're there to help you navigate the complexities of the system, answer your questions, and provide support during tough times.

Beyond the formal support system, don't underestimate the power of your personal network.

  • Friends, family, and community organizations can be tremendous sources of emotional support and practical assistance.
  • They can offer a friendly shoulder, help out with day-to-day tasks, and provide a sense of normalcy and stability for both you and the children in your care.
  • Building and maintaining these relationships can make the fostering journey feel less daunting and more supported.

Creating a support network outside of the foster system can also open up new resources and opportunities for both you and the children you're caring for.

Community organizations often have programs and activities that can enrich your children's lives, offering them new experiences and the chance to develop new interests and skills.

5. Self-Care Is Not Selfish

Remembering to take care of yourself is just as important as caring for the children in your home!

  • Self-care isn't about indulgence; it's about maintaining your physical, emotional, and mental health so you can be the best caregiver possible. 
  • This means finding time for activities that replenish your energy and bring you joy, whether that's diving into a hobby, staying active through exercise, or enjoying social activities with friends and family. 
  • These moments of self-care help recharge your batteries and keep you grounded, enabling you to face the challenges of foster parenting with renewed strength and perspective.

Setting healthy boundaries is another key aspect of self-care. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the demands of foster care, but knowing when to say no and how to delegate responsibilities can help manage stress and prevent burnout.

It's important to recognize your limits and communicate them clearly, ensuring that you don't take on more than you can handle. 

Learn All About Foster Parenting In Our Upcoming Webinar

Ready to learn more about becoming a foster parent? If so, our upcoming webinar can help point you in the right direction.

Our informational webinars cover more about the fostering process and help prepare you to take the next step toward becoming a foster parent.

If you want to make a difference for a child or teen in need and aren’t sure where to start, the webinar is a great place to dive in.

Sign up for our webinar today to learn more!

Sign Up For The Webinar

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