As a foster parent, I have some pieces of advice for you fellow foster parents–be you new to fostering or a seasoned veteran. Us foster parents have to stick together and learn from each other. Be sure to share in the comments what other advice you would give to foster parents.
1. Stand Firm and Know Your Limits
“One boy age 5 and up” was what we told the state when we were first licensed to foster. However, we got several calls for sibling groups, girls, and children outside of this range. Most of the time, we said yes. I could not stand the thought of saying no to a child needing a home. But I came to realize quickly that you should only take what you’re comfortable with. Because as great as being able to take any child, it isn’t a plausible reality for many families. Knowing your limit and standing firm on what you think will best fit in your family will save you and the child(ren) from heartache.
2. Get to know other foster families
One of the biggest things that helped my husband and I when we started fostering was having a support system. When I say a support system, I do not mean your family. I mean someone who is walking the same path and dealing with the same issues. They will be there for a shoulder to cry on as well as respite care.
3. Have Low Expectations
All–yes, I can say confidently ALL–foster children come with a troubled past. This troubled past, even as newborns, can have lasting effects on them mentally and physically. Do not think because you are getting a 10-year-old, they will mentally be 10. Most foster children are much younger in their behavior but have been exposed to things that surpass their age.
4. This is Not About You
So many people will say “These children are blessed to have you” or “You are going to change this child’s life.” THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You will give a child a safe home and maybe love them for the first time, but nothing about their story is a blessing. You will change their life, but they will change yours more.
5. Have tough skin
These children have been hurt and lied to. Many of them have been abused. Often times, they do the same to those who love them. By having tough skin and loving them through it, you will prove to them they can trust you. You ALSO need a tough skin for those people who do not understand foster care. People will make crazy comments and ask questions that are none of their business. You will need to be tough and tell them so.
6. Go all in
Get attached. Love the child(ren) until it hurts. If you can care for a child like your own and not be broken-hearted when they leave, then foster care is not for you. Every one of these children needs you to be their advocate, cheer them on, and love them like they are yours forever.