Once your family has made the decision to get involved in fostering, there is a long list of things that need to be accomplished. Among the many logistical items involved are training classes, paperwork, background checks, more paperwork, and a home inspection to mention a few. During this process however, you also need to be considering how to prepare your own family to become a foster family and welcome foster kids into your home. These conversations should be on-going and age relevant so that your kids understand what to expect and how to react when you finally get a placement. Here are some items you should be discussing leading up to your placement.
- Discuss what foster families do and why you have decided to become a foster family. It is important for your kids to understand your reasoning behind bringing a foster child into your home. Whatever your reasons are for getting involved, if your kids understand these reasons it will make the situation easier for them to accept and possibly even make them eager to help. We talked at length with our kids before deciding to become a foster family. It was important to us that it was something that they wanted to get involved in as well.
- Explain to your kids why a child becomes a foster kid. This conversation should be addressed at an appropriate age level, but if your kids understand that these foster children have mommies or daddies that are, for some reason, unable to parent them right now, then it helps kids to empathize with their situation. It will also hopefully make them more understanding of behaviors they may see from a foster kid and more willing to share your attention with them.
- Prepare your children for how the foster child will feel once they arrive. Often times, your own children will be very excited when you receive a placement. While it is exciting to them, they should understand that the foster children will usually arrive scared, sad, and overwhelmed by the situation. Give them ideas on how they can help make the foster kids feel at home without overwhelming them when they arrive. Depending on the age and the situation of the child, this can vary a lot as we found with our cheery, easy-going placement that arrived ready to laugh and play.
- Discuss safety concerns regarding having another child in the home. Depending on the age of your children and the age of the foster children, this might include rules about appropriate behavior and what behaviors should be considered inappropriate. Some foster children, depending on their past, act out in physical or sexual ways. Talk to your kids about how to react if they witness these types of behaviors.
- Make sure your kids feel that they can talk to you about any concerns they have. Children might have questions about the foster child’s past, concerns about not receiving enough attention once they arrive, or anxiety about what will happen to the foster child when they leave. Family meetings are a great way to let kids talk about what is on their mind and what they are feeling. Each child and situation are different so even after your family has been fostering for a while your kids may have questions or concerns. Make sure your kids feel you are open to hearing these concerns and the experience will be better for everyone involved.
Deciding to become a foster family is a huge decision that will effect everyone involved. Becoming a foster family means extending love and support to someone outside of your family. It can be a great experience for your own children in building character and being grateful for what they have and it can also teach everyone involved to see outside of themselves by giving to others. Even if you have a foster child for only a few months you have the chance to make a long lasting impression on them, which could benefit them for a lifetime.