As a social worker, I’ve been asked many times in my career, “Why do people take in other people’s children?”
This question may seem harsh; however, with so many misconceptions about foster children, I can understand people’s hesitation. We rarely hear examples of children who have overcome great odds to become successful. This is the intention of this blog; to shine a light on fostering and all of the varied experiences that come with it.
So naturally we need to begin with the question, should YOU foster children? Foster parents who have said YES have taken the time to carefully consider this decision, because, like most people they have reservations.
These are the concerns I hear most often:
- People are concerned that foster children will negatively influence their children. (You need to ensure your children are on board with the decision and that you maintain open communication with your children at all times.)
- The fear that a foster child will disrespect your home. (Teaching a child how to respect their space is an important life lesson they may not have had the opportunity to learn yet.)
- Foster parents also worry that their personal time will be consumed. (While their time is often spread more thinly, engaging the foster children in family activities is a positive learning opportunity for them and helps them to bond with your family.)
- When a child moves on it can be very emotionally challenging. (This loss needs to be acknowledged and everyone involved needs to find coping mechanisms to manage their emotions.)
Despite all of these factors many people step forward to foster because they recognize that these children haven’t always had positive life experiences. Foster parents provide a safe, loving, nurturing home for children in need. They accept that it takes a community to raise a child. They respect that sometimes birth families face challenging situations and need support in raising their children as they make necessary life changes. They are people who see an opportunity instead of a problem.
I recently heard one foster parent put it this way, “Fostering is temporary, but love and care are never temporary". Many foster parents start the journey hoping to ‘give back to society’ and they end up receiving more than they could have imagined from their foster children.
Some of the reasons I hear that give foster parents the most satisfaction are:
Fostering is a life changing journey for both you and the children you care for. You don’t need to be perfect to make a positive impact; you just need to open your home, your family and your heart.
- Helping a child to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced is like watching a butterfly go through metamorphosis; while it takes time and will come in stages, the end result is beautiful.
- It’s essential for foster children to have a sense of belonging, your love and support is something they can carry with them throughout their life.
- Helping children to learn how to accept a loss and teaching them how to cope with their emotions and grief are lifelong lessons that they need to learn to manage in a safe and supportive environment.
- Whether it’s joining a team, graduating or getting a job, observing a child accomplish a new task or reach a goal that initially seemed unattainable is extremely fulfilling.
- Working with professionals, families and those within the support network to achieve a common goal provides a real sense of purpose and fulfillment.
- As a foster parent your personal and professional development is enhanced with the specialized training you receive and the foster parent support networks you become a part of.
So, To Foster or Not to Foster, That is The Question. I welcome your comments and feedback and would ask that this space remains respectful of everyone at all times because together we can change lives.
Disclaimer: The advice offered here is the opinion of the author and is not meant to replace advice you receive from your professional network.