Becoming A Foster Carer ~
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
I have been a foster mother so I have first-hand experience of the trials and tribulations associated with becoming a foster carer, and the triumphs and joys of embracing a foster child in my life.
Foster agencies are currently running television commercials to attract new foster carers because so many children are in need of homes. The advertisements raise the profile of fostering, but don’t really offer an insight into what becoming a foster carer actually involves.
Before making the decision to foster, I urge potential foster to carers to ask themselves five key questions. Your answers will give a clear indication of whether or not you will be an effective foster carer.
Q1: Do you have room in your life for a foster child?
Q2: How will your family react to a foster child?
Q3: Will you be your foster child’s best friend?
Q4: What is your motivation for becoming a foster carer?
Q5: Is your commitment ‘forever’?
There are many issues specific to foster care that most parents never encounter. You need to be aware of them.
1. Do you have room in your life for a foster child?
When you foster a child, you take them into your home. You invite them to join your family. You embrace them in your life.
Foster children have all the needs of any child, plus a few more.
For starters they need a warm bed in a loving home. Don’t expect a foster child to sleep on the couch or in a camp bed out on the porch. Your foster child should climb from their bed, safe in the knowledge they can sleep in it again at night. If you can’t offer a child their own bedroom or, at the very least, equal space and facilities as other kids in your home, forget about becoming a foster carer.
Every child needs nutritious meals, and clothing appropriate to weather (and fashion). Foster children should wake in the morning knowing there will be breakfast and meals to provide energy during the day, and be confident that dinner will fill their bellies.
They need a wardrobe of clothing in the right size, and their clothes should be comfortable. If you can’t help a child feel happy and proud about how they look when they set foot out your door, you shouldn’t be a foster parent.
And foster children, like all kids, need to feel as though they are welcome in your home and your life. They’ll need to talk, and they’ll want to listen. They deserve to be active participants in your daily life, and that includes allowing them to have opinions and make suggestions without being treated like an outsider or intruder.
If you don’t have room in your life for a foster child, becoming a foster carer is not for you.
2. How will your family treat a foster child?
I don’t care how big your heart is, if other members of your family treat a foster child badly, you shouldn’t become a foster carer.
Your current children must be supportive of your decision to foster if the relationship is to have any chance of success. Involve them in the decision making process, and help them understand what’s involved. Tell them to expect problems, and give them some strategies to avoid conflict.
If you are not confident your children will be able to cope with changes in your family structure, and if they hate the idea of having a new family member (and resent having competition for your time and attention), don’t foster a child.
Grandparents and other family members also need to be on board. Those who aren’t, deserve to be avoided. If, for instance, your mother-in-law buys beautiful presents for your children but is likely to ignore your foster child at Christmas time, I strongly recommend you stay away from her on any gift-giving days. Let her send her gifts by mail.
It is cruel to allow anyone to treat your foster child badly.
3. Will you be your foster child’s best friend?
Any child who has been placed in foster care will need help settling in to their new home and environment. Most will fear the placement won’t last, and many will resist becoming too comfortable or excited because they don’t want to be disappointed.
If you are going to be an effective carer, you need to be your foster child’s best friend.
Yes, you’ll be their mother (or father) but you also need to be the person they can talk to. The person they can turn to. The one individual on this planet they can trust and rely on.
You need to be their best friend.
4. What is your motivation for becoming a foster carer?
It saddens me when I hear people suggest becoming a foster carer is a way to help pay their bills. If you need extra income, get a job.
Any money paid to you as a foster parent should be spent creating a better life for the child in your care. Buy them a nice bed with a soft pillow and a bright, eye-catching quilt. Let them choose posters to put on their walls. Take them to the book store to buy a few good novels. Get them a bike, and a helmet to protect their precious head.
Of course it would be unfair on your existing children to favour one above the others, but do your best to provide your foster child with anything your children have.
If you are considering becoming a foster carer, your motivation should be to help the child. Not to help yourself.
5. Is your commitment ‘forever’?
Foster carers can fill different roles at different times in a child’s life. Some are full-time foster parents while others may provide respite care or short-term crisis care.
Irrespective of your role in a child’s life, I believe it is important to have a genuine desire and commitment to help make their life better ‘forever’.
Every word you speak and every action you make should be with the ultimate goal of helping the child grow more confident, and more able to cope with their life ahead.
So ask yourself these five questions about becoming a foster carer. If you believe you can provide a safe, loving and supportive home for a child in need, please step forward.
I know from experience that becoming a foster carer is, in many ways, entering the great unknown. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.