Friday, February 23

How to Be a Different Foster Parent


Whether through their own experience, other people’s testimonies or movies and other media, almost everyone will have heard some horror stories about foster care. Unfortunately, some foster parents only seem to be in it for the money, and others are downright abusive. This makes it all the more important for good, kind-hearted, dedicated adults to become foster parents. Here is how you can be a different foster parent from those in the horror stories—a kind, supportive caregiver who truly cares for their foster children and wants them to be happy.

· Read up on best practices

While being a foster parent is not exactly a job, you should treat it like a serious profession when it comes to reading up about best practices in the field. A great way to do that is to subscribe to a monthly magazine or newsletter where foster parents, foster children and other foster care experts share their experiences and offer regular advice to other foster families. Keeping up with what is considered the best practice in foster care will make you a better foster parent and will show your foster kids that you truly care about making their placement with you the best it can be.

· Find a supportive community

Even if you entered the foster care system with the best intentions, a few years of difficult placements, perhaps with kids whose behaviour you found hard to deal with, can leave you jaded and turn you from a great foster parent to a mediocre one. A key to stopping this from happening is to find a community of other foster families and social workers with whom you can share your frustrations, questions and worries as well as your achievements and celebrations.

A good fostering agency will provide this for all their foster families; independent fostering agency, for example, provides foster parents with 24/7 access to social workers for advice, as well as organising regular get-togethers for all foster families in the same area.

· Be sure to listen to your foster kids

Foster kids want to be listened to by their parents and be involved in decision-making processes. To be a great foster parent, therefore, it’s very important that you give your foster kids as much agency as possible and make decisions with them, rather than for them, wherever appropriate. You should also make foster kids feel like part of the family, while at the same time supporting their relationship with their birth family, if the foster child would like to be involved with them. This can be a difficult balance to strike, but your social worker can advise you on how best to go about it in each individual case. If you are fostering a kid who has one or more siblings in a different foster placement you could look into programs which organise outings for siblings who have been separated in the foster care system, so they can stay connected and celebrate each other’s milestones.