THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BECOMING A FOSTER PARENT
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” - James 1:27
This verse is often used in reference to becoming foster parents. The assumption is the words “to look after” in the verse mean God is calling us all to open our homes to the orphans.
I do not believe these words are limited to opening our homes because I do not believe everyone is called to be foster parents.
But, I do believe everyone is called to serve the children in foster care in some capacity.
As the saying goes -- Adopt; If you can’t adopt, foster; If you can’t foster, sponsor; If you can’t sponsor, volunteer; If you can’t volunteer, donate; If you can’t donate, educate.
I HIGHLY encourage any of you who are thinking of becoming foster parents to just go for it. There is such a need for safe and loving foster homes, and if you feel the tug, I believe wholeheartedly you should follow it.
I feel like I should give a little disclaimer here, though...If you’re thinking about entering into the foster world, you also need to be willing to check yourself, your motives, and your intentions at the door.
Here are some things you should ask yourself when considering whether to foster:
AM I MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, RELATIONALLY AND FINANCIALLY STABLE?
Foster parenting is an emotional roller coaster. If your life and relationships are not relatively stable (not perfect, but stable) before, it’s not going to get any easier after adding a child with a traumatic background to the mix.
State laws require foster parents to be financially stable before fostering. This is an attempt to prevent those horror stories you hear of foster parents who take in as many kids as possible, hardly feed or clothe them, and keep the small monthly stipend for themselves.
I have to laugh when people ask if we make any money from fostering. If you are parenting these children as you would a biological child (and you should be!!), you won’t make a dime. Clothes, car seats, toys, beds, alllllll the activities and gear… I’m grateful for the monthly stipend, but let’s just say we are definitely not in this for the money.
You need to be mentally and emotionally stable, and your relationships, especially with your husband or wife, need to be nontoxic.
If you truly feel like opening your home is the path you need to go, do the work on yourself and your own life first and then go for it.
Children in foster care will already have experienced a lifetime’s worth of trauma before ever stepping foot in your home. Please be self-aware enough to not add to their trauma.
(Side note: You do not HAVE to be married to foster.)
My husband and I are a far cry from perfect parents. We lose our temper with our kids just like everyone else. We are young and we still have soooo much to learn, but we have a healthy relationship and an incredible support system backing us on this.
Which leads me to my next question…
DO I HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM?
We absolutely positively could NOT do this without our circle of people. From babysitting and hand-me-downs to vent sessions and tears, our circle is there for us.
The foster care system would have surely eaten us alive by now if it hadn’t been for them.
Our parents take our kids for the weekend regularly, our church family made sure our first placement had everything they needed and so much more, our resource worker has the best trauma-parenting recommendations, our friends pray endlessly for us.
When our hearts ache, theirs do too. When we rejoice in the progress a child has made, they do too.
You need these kinds of people, or at least one person, in your life because when things get hard, they will be there to lift you up and help you keep going.
AM I WILLING TO LEARN?
In foster care, there is so. much. to. learn.
The biggest subject you should educate yourself on is trauma and its long-lasting effects on children. It doesn’t matter if a child comes into foster care at 1-day-old or 16-years-old, they will have endured trauma and it WILL have effects on them physically, emotionally and developmentally.
This is simply the nature of foster care. Kids don’t come into care because they were living in a safe and loving home. The very act of being taken from their home is traumatic, not to mention everything leading up to that point.
I am privileged enough to not have experienced much trauma at all in my life, so I have to make a conscious effort to understand my foster children’s needs as best I can. For me, this looks like talking with other foster parents, seeking out counseling services, listening to podcasts, reading books, and following trauma-based social pages.
There also is a lot to learn about the foster care system as a whole. You will learn as you go about how the court system works, what your role is as a foster parent, how to advocate for your child’s needs, how to bridge the relationship with birth parents, how to seek out the resources your child needs… the list is endless.
You HAVE to be willing to learn -- constantly -- for your kids’ sake.
If you’re thinking about jumping into foster parenting but are still hesitant, I urge you to keep educating yourself. Ask questions, follow other foster parents on social, attend informational meetings, listen to podcasts, whatever you need to do to help you make the plunge.
It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is 1,000 percent worth it.