Fostering is a fulfilling, enriching, labor of love. While many foster parents have varied reasons on why they decide to be foster parents, love remains at the heart of it. And like biological kids, foster kids bring the same plate to the table: joy, laughter, worries, heartbreak, giggles, love, and sticky fingers. Let us look at the fostering process and clear up any issues that might be preventing you from taking the plunge.
Why Should You Become a Foster Parent?
We all have those lingering questions at the back of our minds. Are we doing enough for our community? We are so blessed, how do we give back and show appreciation? What mark will we leave behind when we are gone? Do we even have a legacy? Everyone wants to leave a print on something whose impact is felt and cherished. Not many things compare to fostering on that level.
Most children who need fostering have already gone through some trauma. Whether it was being taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect or abandonment. This comes with a degree of emotional or physical scars, sometimes both. Fostering in its simplest forms gives you the privilege to love a child back to emotional and physical health.
Reference: Perpetual Fostering
And this has a ripple effect. Inadequate parental attachment almost always leads to deviant behavior, which may progress to criminal behavior in adulthood. Crime affects entire communities. As a foster parent, you get a sense of satisfaction in the realization that by bridging the parenting gap and help raise an emotionally secure child who will be less prone to deviant behavior.
Another reason why fostering should top your bucket-list is the wealth of knowledge and enriching experience its bound to bring to you and your family. Every person you meet has a story and a set of experiences different from yours. Having a foster child in your home will open you up to this new person with a different worldview and experience that you might never have otherwise encountered. Fostering helps you look inwards at your life and at what you have, and reminds you to be grateful.
How Does Fostering Impact Kids Emotionally?
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an estimated 30% of foster children have severe emotional or behavioral issues. Fostering impacts a child’s emotional health in the following ways:
Children thrive on structure and stability: a foster parent can provide a stable, structured home which mentally balances a child. Picture a child that had been neglected, or has a drug-dependent parent. This child does not know if and when they get to eat or when mom or dad will be home, or even the mood they will be in if and when they get back.
Your safe home, with predictable mealtimes, playtime, homework time, and a bed at bedtime are immensely beneficial to this child. This might not be all it will take to get the child back to where it should be, but it is a great start.
Emotional attachment: to develop into a psychologically healthy human being, a relationship with a nurturing adult is pivotal. For kids in foster care, this may have been missing or was interrupted when the child was separated from his/her parents. “This is even more critical as more and more people are classified as lonely and depressed in American today. Teens in particular are feeling these negative emotions. This in turn can lead to many damaging habits, such as drug addiction among others. A steady and supportive adult figure whom they spend quality time with could help them not walk down that path. A foster parent attempts to fill this gap and hopefully create a healthy emotional attachment. This emotional attachment will also be the foundation for all other relationships in the future.
Reference: The Recovery Village: Drug Rehab
How Do You Become a Foster Parent?
All foster parents have to be certified or approved before any child can be placed in their care. While the process varies from state to state, there is a general process that is followed, maybe not in the same exact sequence that is outlined here, but this will give you a feel of what to expect.
Step 1: Find contacts for public and private agencies
The Child Welfare Information Gateway-State Resources is a great place to start. In their Foster Care & Adoption Directory, you will find useful contact information for your state.
Reference: Child Welfare
In addition to this, your Department of Children and Family Services can provide you with a list of adoption agencies in your area. Other websites such as AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway provide useful resources to guide you through this journey.
Once you have the contacts, consider contacting several agencies in your state to see which one is a good fit for you. The initial conversation will not be too detailed. You will likely only have to provide your contacts and a brief discussion on why you are interested in fostering.
Step 2: The first meeting
After contact, your agency will book an appointment to meet with you. This will either be at their offices or in your home. At the meeting, the agency will give you an overview on fostering, their specific need for foster parents, as well as the type of children they foster in terms of age, background, and so on.
At this point too, you will be given an application form to fill out, as well as a copy of the state foster care licensing and regulations.
Step 3: The home study
This step entails a formal assessment of all members of the family as well as your capability to take on and care for a foster child. Your agent will ask you to complete a social history and several questionnaires as well as provide a list of references who will be contacted to speak on your character and capabilities. In addition, you will discuss your childhood, relationships, interests, and motivations. All these are geared towards assessing your suitability as a foster parent/family as well as the kind of child you would be best equipped to care for.
Step 4: Background checks
Here you will authorize the agency to run a background check and provide fingerprints. This check will cover your criminal history and child protection history. The prints will be used to check local, state, and FBI databases. This process is extremely important as it locks out people who can potentially harm children.
Step 5: Home safety check
Your agent will schedule a visit to your home with a safety checklist and ensure that it is safe for children and your entire family as well. They will flag any possible hazards, and you will be given an opportunity to fix these. A fire marshal and a building inspector might also do an assessment.
Step 6: Orientation and training
If you have passed all the checks, it will be time to get some orientation on the fostering system. This can include CPR and first aid training, caring for kids with special needs, as well as interactions with your agency or state.
Step 7: Licensing
Your agency worker will forward a recommendation report on your suitability and the children that you would be best placed to care for. They will include all the information and documentation required by the licensing body to process your foster parent license.
After this step, then comes the child placement and your fostering journey can begin.
Are You Paid to Become Foster Parent?
Once you become a foster parent and a child is placed under your care, you will not be left on your own. You will have your agency and Childcare services to help you in case you run into any issues while caring for your foster child. More to this, you receive an allowance to go towards catering for the child’s needs. In some states, an additional allowance is provided for food, diapers, and so on.
Reference: We Have Kids
As most parents will tell you, nothing fills up your life and your heart like a child does. Granted, some foster children might have some behavioral issues because of the environment they were in, and are bound to challenge you a little bit. However, think about how your influence will change them. To love them and to look into their faces every day and see your hand in helping to put back together a few broken pieces of their souls. Nothing can top that.