With hundreds of thousands of children of all ages in foster care, there’s huge need for more foster families. Perhaps you’ve thought about fostering before, but fear of the unknown has stopped you from going for it. There’s no doubt that fostering children is a special and fulfilling opportunity. It’s a chance to provide a child a safe, secure living environment and to positively shape and mold their life.
The decision to foster is an important one that affects both you and the children you care for. Having a dedicated and committed foster family can be a game-changer for many children and can make a lasting impression on their life. If you’re thinking about going forward with fostering but are unsure, consider these traits that will help determine if becoming a foster parent is right for you. You may be surprised to find that it’s not as complicated as you think.
- You are a legal resident of the United States, are at least 21-years old and are able to pass a criminal background check. These are some of the very basic requirements. All foster parents must be a citizen of the U.S. or be able to verify lawful immigration status. The age requirement can vary by state, so be sure to check with your local organization to confirm your state’s age requirements.
- You can love and keep a child safe. Sometimes you have to “get back to the basics” when parenting a child in foster care. Providing a safe, loving and supportive environment are the first steps to health and healing.
- You have an open mind. Children can enter into foster care for many different reasons. The ultimate goal is to safely place each child in foster care into a permanent home, and this could include the birth parents’ home. Foster parents need to be willing to keep an open mind and work with the birth parents. Sometimes being a foster parent means being able to listen without passing judgment.
- You work well in a team environment. You won’t be in this alone. You’ll have the support of your foster parent licensing agency, the support of the parents you’ll meet in training, as well as the “army” of individuals that will be there every step of the way from training to placement and then permanency.
- You have a support system. Having a support system made of friends and family is important. Having friends and family that you can call on for help, guidance or even just an ear to listen, can be immensely helpful.
- You are an advocate. As a foster parent, you’re not just an advocate for the children in your care, but you must also advocate for yourself. This could include asking for additional support or resources when faced with challenges.
- You are patient. Being a parent requires patience. Sometimes being a foster parent can require even more patience – not only with the children in your care, but also with the foster care system. Some aspects of foster care might seem overly involved, but please keep in mind that everyone is working toward the same goal – ensuring the safety and well-being of the children in our community.
- You are adaptable. Sometimes being a foster parent means having to drop everything last minute in order to help a child in need. This could mean receiving a phone call for an emergency placement, or needing to take a child to a court or doctor’s appointment.
- You know your own capabilities. Before becoming a foster parent, you must be able to assess your individual and family strengths and needs. This could mean asking your family what they are and are not comfortable with when it comes time to accept foster placements into your home.
- You are not afraid to ask questions. There are many questions that you’ll want to ask before you can make an informed decision about foster parenting. Empowering yourself with knowledge is the first step in becoming a successful foster parent.
The need for more foster homes in our country is great and you may have just what it takes to change the life of a child. Of course, there may be reasons to not foster so that’s why it’s incredibly important to think through whether or not fostering is right for you. The important thing is to fully consider both sides of the coin.
Children in foster care come from all walks of life and are so very deserving of the love and care you could provide. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent and would like more information, visit these resources:
- National Resources for Foster Parents
- More About Foster-to-Adopt
- Learn About Different Types of Foster Families from Cornerstones of Care
About Cornerstones of Care
Cornerstones of Care has a long legacy of partnering with children and families to create safe and healthy communities. A team of nearly 800 professionals provide programming in the areas of mental and behavioral health, foster care, adoption, education, and youth and family support. Their service area includes 14 locations in Missouri, Kansas, and beyond. Learn more at cornerstonesofcare.org.