Fostering a child comes with struggles and opportunities similar to what other parents face, but there are additional factors you must take into consideration. You’re meeting with a child at different points in his or her development, and you have to adapt to the child’s potential medical issue and/or history of trauma.
Since there are so many variables involved in raising a foster child, you must be living in a stable environment with steady income, resources, and support systems in place. Here are ten ways to assess whether you might be up for the task.
1. Home income
Many prospective foster parents will meet with a financial advisor to see whether they are on track to paying off debts and mortgages, and still bringing in enough income in to support a family. You will need enough funds to pay for a child’s living expenses such as food, clothing, school supplies, and other needs.
2. Career stability
Do you plan to be employed consistently during your foster care period? You will need reliable streams of income during this period to provide for a foster child’s needs. If you’re planning to make a major career shift, you might want to wait on hosting a foster child.
3. Emotional maturity
Depending on their previous living arrangements, a foster child might exhibit emotional or behavioral issues. Moving into a stable home doesn’t just fix these issues; children who have sustained psychological trauma or abuse will act out even if they are in a safe and secure place.
You must be emotionally mature enough to help a foster child through these difficult times without making the issues worse.
4. Child development knowledge
Foster children are placed in homes at a variety of ages. You might be familiar with raising toddlers, but not teenagers. Before a foster child is placed in your home, make sure you do extensive research into the developmental levels you should expect for their age group.
5. Foster child struggles
Don’t expect your foster child to warm up immediately to the new living situation. Depending on how many times a child has been placed in a foster home, he or she might have a difficult time adapting to the new environment and learning how to trust your family.
6. Support system
Do you have relatives, friends, and social workers you can turn to when you have questions? Knowing other experienced parents can help immensely, especially if you have little or no experience with a particular age group or childrearing issue. If you don’t currently have a support network, then seek out local parenting groups and social work organizations for assistance.
Foster children can quickly try your patience. Behavior issues, accidents, and just daily child-raising routines can amount to a major time investment. You must be able to control yourself during these high-stress scenarios and be patient with your foster child.
8. Home inspections
You must be ready for social workers to inspect your home on a regular basis and check up on foster children. They assess a child’s living conditions to make sure the foster child is receiving everything needed for healthy development.
9. Criminal history checks
Before you take in a foster child, you and others that live in your residence will be subjected to a background check. This screening process prevents foster children from being placed with those who have specific histories of criminal activity.
10. The ability to say goodbye
Foster children are often placed in a home on a temporary basis, until they can return to their birth parents or adoptive home. Once foster parents have developed a bond with a child, it can be very difficult to say goodbye. Sometimes you may even adopt a foster child, if he or she lacks a safe home to return to.