Understanding Foster Parenting (Before You Take the Plunge)

Foster Parenting

As a parent, you want to help all the needy children of the world. But before you dive in, you need to understand what foster parenting of a United States child involves.

The Process

First, you will need to find a foster parenting agency to work with. Some agencies charge fees but most do not. You can find agencies that work with your state by simply using a Google search such as “adoption agencies Virginia.” Intrastate fostering is an option but it is much more time consuming and more involved with paperwork than in-state foster parenting.

Next, you will need to submit a variety of paperwork to the agency. For example, you will need to sign an agreement for a background check, submit your driving record and provide vet records for any pets you have. The fees for the required paperwork are minimal, generally totaling less than $100 and often less than $50.

Once the paperwork is approved, you will need to complete home visits—generally there are three of them. Home visits are done by an agency representative and are designed to get more personal information about you and your ideal wishes for a child. In addition, home visits allow the agency representative to make suggestions or requirements about changes to your home. For example, toxic items such as cleaning supplies may need to be locked away.

The Child

So, you’ve been approved for foster parenting! Congratulations!

The agency will, at some point, contact you with a potential child. It is very important to note that, at this point, you are under no obligation to accept the child. The agency will give you as much information about the child as they can, although it is often sketchy. The child may have behaviors, such as bed-wetting, that you are uncomfortable with. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about saying “no” to a child. It is much better for both you and the child to wait for the right one. He or she will come along!

Most agencies offer foster parenting classes that will help you. Even if you have raised your own children, foster kids have special needs that you will need to understand. For example, most of these children have experienced some sort of trauma while very young.

For many foster children, traditional parenting techniques do not work. A good agency will help train you in collaborative problem solving for foster parenting. Say, you have a foster child who gets angry every dinnertime. Using a collaborative problem solving method, you, as the parent, would talk to the child and say something like “Hey, I notice that you get upset at dinner. What’s going on?”

The Reward

Even using the tried and true methods that a fostering parent agency can provide, fostering a child is hard work. But the rewards are plenty. The children you foster may not get in touch for months or even years, but they generally always do reconnect with you. After all, you have been a steady and reliable force in their life.

Photo Credit:  Thinkstock

Are you thinking of foster parenting a child?