Every child is lucky to be born alive. Most of them are blessed to be taken care of by their biological parents. But some are unfortunately abandoned, refused care, or worse, abused. These children end up in the state’s care through the foster care system.
Foster Care provides a child a planned, temporary, and substitute parental care by a licensed foster family. The goal is to bridge the gap until there is either family reunification or placement with an adoptive family.
Foster parents, who are they?
A parent is defined as a person who gives birth to or raises a child. Foster Parents signify the latter definition. When the birth parents go through a crisis, it is in the child or any young person’s best interest to be embraced by the system and provided with a better quality of care, at least for the time being. The famous adage goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Here is where the foster carer or family comes in.
Becoming a substitute parent is no joke. You cannot decide to be one on a whim. Caring for a child is going to be a full-time job. It is a journey that requires a deep passion. As most children from foster care have experienced some level of trauma from being displaced from their families, they need a safe and loving home. A foster parent or family should be:
- At least 21 years of age and financially stable. Being married is not required.
- Can provide a safe, comfortable home, either owned or rented.
- After inspection, your home must meet the minimum requirements. There should be space for the child and their belongings.
- All members of your family are in good health. All adults living in your home will submit to a background check.
When all the requirements are met, you will need to undergo an extensive process that includes attending an orientation, submitting an application, joining training classes, and passing family assessments. Even from the start, foster care entails hard work and patience.
What are your roles and responsibilities as a foster parent?
After successfully securing your license, the next step is to wait for a placement. The system will match a child to a substitute parent or family who will most likely meet the child’s needs. They will look at your capacity to care for a particular child. Basically, you will be the child’s family, who will provide for all of their needs. You will have several important roles and responsibilities to your foster child or children:
Ensure a Safe Home Environment
Most foster kids have had family troubles in the past. That is why they have been displaced. Your role is to provide a space where they can recover. More than the physical structure, they need a nurturing home where they will feel supported, loved, and cared for. It is up to you to create a place they can call their home.
Provide Education and Development
Education is a vital part of any child’s development. If the child in your placement is of school age, enroll them in school. Since you stand as their parents, be actively involved in their education. Attend parent-teacher conferences and be there to help should your child needs it for their homework and projects.
Address their Health Needs
Whenever necessary, ensure that they have access to quality medical care. Bring them to their appointments and talk to their doctors so you know how you can manage them at home. Some children have special needs or disabilities that require extra medical attention. Check that you adequately address these needs.
Shower Them with Love and Support
The trauma that these children went through does not end in the past. When they are placed under your care, the experience can be another source of stress or trauma. Being surrounded by unfamiliar people can be unsettling, at the very least. Please show your support by welcoming them into your home. Give them time to adjust and prove to them, little by little, that you genuinely care. Allow them to get to know you by opening yourself up to them. Then, devote your time to getting to know them too.
Manage Their Behaviors
One of the most daunting tasks of being a parent is managing their children’s behaviors. Foster parents are no exception. In some cases, it might even be more challenging since foster kids had negative experiences in their past. They might come in as vulnerable, proud, resistive, or defiant. Never take these against them. Deal with them from a place of understanding. One of the most prized assets of being a foster parent is patience. Nevertheless, equip yourself and develop a system to handle problematic behaviors.
Attend Meetings the Foster Care System Requires
Especially if you are new to the system, you will be looking forward to attending meetings with your Supervising Social Worker (SSW). Here, you will learn to keep records and manage confidential information about your child. You can also voice out all your questions and concerns in these meetings.
You are never alone in your journey as a foster parent. Your SSW will guide you through the entire process. They will ensure that you offer the most suitable form of care to your unique child.
Further Your Parenting Skills
As you get to know your foster child, you will learn that no two days are exactly alike. You will continually face new challenges and new scenarios that you need to get a grip on handling. Improving your skills as a substitute parent is an absolute must. By attending training, parenting support groups, and reading about child-rearing books, you can become the best foster carer that you can be. Your child deserves no less. After all, you are making a difference in their life and yours!
If you’re considering fostering a child in Colorado, contact Courage Community Foster Care. We can help you through every part of the foster parenting experience! Call us at 719-321-4319. You can also inquire at P.O. Box 262 Cascade, CO 80809 or kerrih@FosterCourage.com.