Bringing a new child into your home, perhaps from less than ideal circumstances, is a serious decision. The rewards of becoming a foster parent are great: You are given the chance to unconditionally love a child who needs your care; you witness the power of love and how being in a healthy and stable family environment can change a child’s life forever. If you are considering becoming a foster parent and have already read “Should You Become a Foster Parent,” there are a few additional considerations to make before deciding to take the beautiful step in becoming a foster parent:
1) Financial Assistance
Each state will have slightly different mechanisms in place for assisting foster parents with the financial responsibility associated with their role. It is important to know what your state offers and how the financial assistance is provided in your community.
2) Family Limitations
While foster parents are basically superheroes who don’t (always) wear capes, they may also be parents to other children who are either biological or adopted. Be honest with oneself about what the family’s limitations are, the emotional toll it can take on children to have to say goodbye to foster siblings, and how the family dynamic can afford to change by welcoming a foster child into the home and family life. It is also important to realize that family dynamics shift and change and that if your family isn’t ready to foster right now, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of fostering at a later time.
3) An Understanding of Grief and Boundaries
Understanding that grief is healthy and that boundaries are necessary in all relationships is important for foster parents. Many children in the foster system are grieving in some way. They may be grieving over their parents or caregiver. They may be grieving the loss of living in their home or being in familiar surroundings. Even the relationships or situations your foster child is grieving were unhealthy, the importance of being able to grieve in a safe environment is important for the emotional health of the child you are fostering.
Just as important as the ability to grieve is the ability to set boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries both protects relationships and helps maintain emotional health among family members. Sometimes a child you foster will never have had experience with boundaries. Setting loving but firm boundaries helps the children you foster to learn how to set their own limits and to learn vital lessons in autonomy, emotional health, and maintaining healthy relationships.
4) Know Your Don’ts
Some people do not look into becoming foster parents because they automatically disqualify themselves. They usually do not realize that in order to be a foster parent you DON’T
- Have to be rich or well off
- Have to married
- Have to own your own home
- Have to a stay at home parent
- Need to be young
- Need to have children of your own
- Need a degree in child development or education or social work
Choosing to foster a child or children can be transformative and life changing—not just for the children being fostered, but for the family who accepts them and loves them as their own, for however long is necessary. This is a courageous, challenging, selfless, compassionate, and amazing choice for an individual, couple, or family to make. It is not one to be taken lightly, but after reflecting on the four considerations above, it becomes clear that this decision can change the life of a child who needs to be loved—forever.
By Laura Ricketts