The decision to become a foster parent isn’t an easy one to make, nor should it be made on a whim. You’re welcoming a child into your home with the promise to love and care for them, no matter what your reasons for doing so may be. No matter the reason behind your decision, you need to carefully consider what’s expected of you as a foster parent and how you need to prepare for this new role.
The goal is reunification.
When you’re fostering a child, the ultimate goal is to provide them a safe haven until their parents make their home fit for them to live in again. Reuniting children with their parents is the ultimate goal of being a foster family, and it’s best not to disillusion yourself into thinking otherwise. About ninety percent of children will be reunited with their parents, and adoption will only happen if reunification is impossible and the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated. The reunification process is bittersweet—while you may be excited for the child you were fostering, it’s also natural to mourn your own loss.
Nothing can prepare you for the child leaving your home and going back to their parents, but you’re there for them when they need someone on their side; besides, it’s always possible that you can still stay connected post-reunification.
It won’t be perfect.
You can (and should) take as many classes as possible to prepare to be a foster parent, or become as informed about the child and their case as anyone can become, but all of this information won’t mean the ordeal will be easy sailing. Though fostering can be rewarding, you’ll also be faced with challenging situations. Many people take advantage of services offered to them through their agencies, while others see therapists or attend counseling sessions to help cope with their emotions.
Your health is just as important as the health of the child (or children) you’re fostering—both physical and mental. Put some time aside, take care of yourself, and be your own advocate.
Becoming a foster parent won’t be easy. What’s written up above only touches the tip on a mountain of experiences, both good and bad. Fostering children is a rewarding experience, however, and lets you be a support system for kids who are going through a rough time in their lives. As tempting as it is to jump right into doing this, do your research ahead of time and make an informed decision rather than an impulsive one; once you’re in it, your life will forever be changed for the good.