When we first started the foster care process I wasn’t really sure how it all worked. Foster care is mostly a learn as you go type thing, you’ll figure most of it out as you go along. Although you will figure it out as you go, I do have several tips for foster parents who are just starting the fostering process. These were handed down to me from other foster parents over the years, so now I’ll hand them down to you.
Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Plans – I think it’s okay to go in to foster care with an idea of what your goals are. Long term placements? Adoption from foster care? Babies? Teenagers? Respite? There is nothing wrong with having plans, but keep an open mind. Rob and I planned to foster 1 child at a time for short periods. Look at us 7 years later with our adopted sibling group. With foster care, things rarely turn out the way you planned, so be ready to change your plans.
Document Every Memory – Take pictures. Jot down the funny stories. Write down anything a foster child mentions about their life before they lived with you. You are the memory keeper, so try to save as much of a child’s history as possible.
Go to the Court Dates – Whether or not you are allowed into the court room will differ by state, but if you can go, you should try your best to be there. Even if all you can do is sit outside on the bench, you’ll be surprised how much you learn about the case, and how much information you are able to give as the foster parent. Another perk of going to court is setting the record straight on the spot. Most of the people working on a foster child’s case are dealing with multiple families, and it isn’t uncommon for them to mix details up. Our kid’s law guardian entered into evidence that we had 3 aggressive pit bulls that we kept locked up in the back bedroom, unfortunately we weren’t at court that day to set her straight, so we spent the next several weeks trying to prove it wasn’t true.
Have a Support System in Place – Foster care is exhausting. And sad. And happy. And all the things. Find people who understand. Your agency might have in person support groups, so go ahead and ask. There are also tons of online support groups through message boards and Facebook. Definitely search these groups out, there will definitely come a time (or ten) when you need them.
Don’t Bash Your Foster Child’s Birth Family – If I had a nickel for every time I heard a foster parent trash their child’s birth family, I’d buy a soapbox so I could shout this one a little bit louder. I get it, some of the things that some birth families have done to their children are maddening. If a child is angry about what has happened in their life, that is their right. As foster parents we can and should validate their right to be angry. But leave it at that.
It’s Okay to Say NO – You are stressed, your house is too crowded, you feel overworked, the placement isn’t a good fit for your family. Whatever the reason, if you feel like you need to say no, it’s okay. There will be other calls.
It’s Okay to Say YES – The placement call isn’t exactly what you expected, you’re other kids all have colds, you’re tired, you don’t have an extra car seat. But something is still telling you to say yes. Go ahead. Say yes, it’s okay. Life has a funny way of working itself out.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
Jill started a Pinterest board for our link up and we’re going to start pinning some of the posts. If you are a Pinteresty person be sure to follow along! Follow Ripped Jeans and Bifocals’s board Adoption Talk Linkup on Pinterest.
New to linking up? We’d love to have you join us, here’s how.