One of the most difficult parts of parenting, and it’s not something everyone experiences, is caring for a traumatized child. Yet the majority of children in foster care have been traumatized, and the people who care for them must be especially strong and capable. For this reason, the application process is selective and becoming a foster parent may be difficult for some. People who wish to become foster parents must prove that they are able to provide a stable, safe, caring home for a child under challenging circumstances.
Different Types of Foster Care
There are different types of foster care for different situations. Children just placed in foster care will often be sent to a temporary foster home as social workers seek to find a more appropriate long-term living situation. Children may only be in temporary foster homes for a matter of weeks or days. Foster parents in these temporary homes must be equipped to provide for a child’s basic needs, but not on a long-term basis. Temporary foster care parents must have the flexibility to accept children into their homes on a moment’s notice and should have the ability to comfort a child that is scared and upset.
Long-term foster care parents must have the ability to care for the same child for months or even years. Children who are placed in long-term foster care often maintain a relationship with biological relatives, so foster parents must be able to bring foster children to visitations.
The type of foster care you decide to provide will depend entirely on you. If you wish to open your home to a child in need but feel that you cannot make a long-term commitment to a child, perhaps short-term foster care is best for you. Maybe you’re hoping to develop a lasting relationship with a child, or even adopt a child from foster care. In this case, long-term foster care is more appropriate.
Different states have different requirements for foster parents. After making the decision to become a foster parent, the first step is to contact a local foster care agency. The agency will lead you through the process and eventually place you with a foster child, once you’ve completed all the requirements. Before your placement, the foster care agency will ask you to fill out an application and you will be asked to attend a class where you will be trained to meet the needs of a foster care child. In these classes, you will learn about caring for a child who is experiencing grief and loss. Children in foster care may act out to show their anger, frustration or sadness. They may also be behind in school, because of the upheavals they have experienced in their personal life. Children in foster care may have previously experienced years of abuse or neglect, and that can lead to a variety of emotional, physical and psychological problems. All of these complications will need to be addressed by you as the foster parent. The training you attend is meant to prepare you for these challenges.
In addition to attending classes, you will need to disclose extensive information about your personal history, and the history of all the people in your household. The foster care agency will write a long report, called a homestudy, that provides in-depth information about your financial situation, your cultural and ethnic background, your personality and the type of home you live in. All members of your household will be discussed in the homestudy. The homestudy document is meant to determine if your home is an appropriate environment for a foster child, and if so, what type of child will be best placed with you. Once the homestudy is complete, the foster care agency will evaluate your application. If you are approved to become a foster parent, the foster care agency will contact you as soon as there is a placement ready.
Providing A Safe Home
As you prepare to become a foster parent, you must remember you will need to provide your foster child with all the same services as any other child living under your roof. Your foster child will need, at the very least, a place to sleep, food to eat, adequate clothing and a school to attend. You will need to prepare a bedroom with personal space for your child’s belongings. Your home must be made ready to accept a foster child on short notice, so there will need to be room in your life and your schedule for the needs of an additional person.
You’ll be expected to provide for your foster child’s special needs as well. You may be asked to take your foster child to a therapist provided by the agency. Your foster child may have a special medical condition that requires you to make frequent trips to a physician. You may find that your foster child has never experienced healthy or productive forms of discipline, and you may need to override years of bad behavior management.
There will also be a crucial emotional component to your foster child’s needs. Foster care children must be made to feel safe, secure and loved. As you prepare to become a foster parent, you must ask yourself what you will do to make your foster child feel welcome and wanted in your house.
Many people make the decision to become a foster parent because they hope to eventually adopt a child, but foster care can be a risky path to adoption. Often when a child is removed from the home of a biological parent, either due to abuse or neglect, the biological parent will be given a set amount of time to rehabilitate behaviors or improve the circumstances that caused the child to be removed. This process can take years. If the biological parents are unable to meet the state requirements for the child, the parent’s rights are terminated, and then the child will be freed for adoption. During this time, a tight bond may develop between the foster parent and the child. Foster parents hoping to adopt must understand and accept that their foster child or children may eventually be returned to their biological parents. Only individuals who feel they can handle this kind of uncertainty should enter into a foster care situation with the hope that they may someday adopt.
Becoming a foster parent can take a long time–usually about a year from the time you contact a foster care agency to the time that a child is placed in your home. You will need patience and persistence to see you through the process. Ultimately, this patience and persistence will be an asset to you as a foster parent.