Children in the foster care system are victims of circumstance. In most cases, they didn’t say or do anything wrong. These situations are out of their control. Yet they must pay the price for the actions of others.
If you are thinking about becoming a foster parent, you should think long and hard. The media has hyped the charitable act of helping these children. However, nothing can prepare you for the task at hand. To be a good foster parent, you will need to be armed with skills. Here are a few ways to help you be a better caregiver.
1. Don’t Pressure Children to Talk about their Problems
One of the biggest things that new foster parents do is try to get the children to talk. Children are very resilient and when it comes to opening up, some never do. If they do let you inside their world, never pressure them for more information. A child will share with you if and when they feel ready.
Remember, they have been terribly hurt by life. Even if they have suffered no abuse, they have been neglected or had some other major issue. It is going to take some time for them to get over these things. Some of them never will, and many will create mental blocks to avoid the very thought of what happened to them.
2. Set Firm Boundaries
What makes a good foster parent? Well, you must set firm boundaries. Children thrive on structure. Make sure that they know the rules of the house from day one. It may help to type out the rules and post them to the refrigerator.
You cannot expect children to just know the routine and regulations around your home. They have probably been in several homes where the schedules and rules were all different. A rule list can let them know what you expect.
Also, don’t be afraid to setup a consequence sheet either. There will be no mistake about what will happen should they break a rule.
3. Never Speak Bad about their Parents
One of the best foster care skills that you can acquire is patience. Another one is to make sure that you never say anything bad about their parents. It is so easy to get caught up in the child’s anger, and you will want to take their side. When they are telling you things that their parents did or said, you will become protective.
Remember, that is their parent. Nothing that you say or do is going to change how they feel about them. Even the most abused children will love their family. It is a bond that is very difficult to break.
Additionally, if reunification is the goal, you don’t want to say or do anything that will hinder this process.
4. Learn to Communicate Well
When you are a foster parent, you must learn how to communicate. You will need to work with the case worker, therapists, counselors, and the parents of the child. You will also need to find an effective method to deal with the child.
Not all children are easy to talk to. Many of them have barriers built from years of disappointments. Learning to communicate with a child is a chore in and of itself. Sharpen your communication skills to ensure that you are helping the child in the best way possible.
5. Know Your Limits
What do you need to become a foster parent? You need to know your limits. When you are in the classes to become a foster parent, you will fill out paperwork on what you will and won’t accept in a child. Remember, these children are very broken. Many of them have physical or mental disabilities that require great strength and patience.
Identify early on what you can and cannot handle. Agencies encourage you to check all the conditions so that you can be matched with children easily. However, you need to have boundaries. If you cannot handle a child and their issues, you will not be of any help to them. Stick with what you know. There are therapeutic homes for those children who need special assistance.
When examining the strengths and needs for foster parents, the list is massive. However, the most important of all these things is love. You must love that child no matter what they say or do.
There are going to be days when you would rather just call the agency and tell them that you can no longer do it anymore. Remember, that is a normal feeling. You aren’t dealing with a child that is perfect from birth. These children have seen horrific things and been in places you only hope you never have to go.
Foster parents must be realistic about the situation with themselves. If a child needs counseling, don’t deny them that right just because it may not be right for you.
It takes time to become a great foster parent. Pace yourself and know when you are ready to take a child into your home. The classes are helpful, but they cannot prepare you for what life with a foster child is really like.
Riya is the mother of a young boy. She is also a content writer, writing in several areas of expertise including home & family, business management, lifestyle and travel.