We just closed the book on National Foster Care Month, a month long celebration of foster parents who have stepped up and welcomed a foster child into their lives, and foster families who are making it work and growing stronger together every day.
Foster parents need to be recognized and celebrated. Being a parent is no walk in the park, but being a foster parent has its own challenges and surprises. As part of National Foster Care Month, we interviewed a few foster parents in our network with the hopes of sharing some real experiences and perhaps shining a light on what it’s like to be a foster parent.
1. How has your life changed since becoming a foster parent?
Becoming a foster parent will definitely change your life. You will have to make adjustments, and plenty of sacrifices. As Lori puts it:
“Nothing is about you anymore. Every day you are now doing everything for this child who depends on you…. You think twice about everything you do because of this child.” - Lori
It’s natural for new foster parents to feel overwhelmed by this new responsibility. It can be a challenge, but it’s important to remember why you wanted to foster in the first place. As Karen says:
“If you feel passionate about helping children, it can be very rewarding watching a child heal. I also hope my children are learning empathy towards other children that have been traumatized and disrupted.” - Karen
2. What's one thing you wish more people knew about foster care?
There are a lot of misconceptions about foster care. Some of the most common are...
“Lately I wish people knew/understood that foster care is often temporary and that kids do go back to parents and many do just fine (I was actually reading most do better than those who stay in care). That foster care is supposed to be temporary.” - Jessica
It’s true! Foster care is a temporary measure, one that can ultimately lead to adoption or the child returning to a family. However, it’s also important to note that Virginia has the highest rate of children who age out of the system without being adopted. While many kids return home, many more do not.
“I would like for people to know that it takes a child a long long long time to recover, heal, and trust after the trauma of having to come into foster care. That it is not just getting out of a “bad situation” and into a more stable situation. It’s about understanding that it’s not their fault 99% of the time.” - Dale
In fact, according to one study, nearly half of children in foster care have had four or more “adverse family experiences”— potentially traumatic events that are associated with multiple poor outcomes— in childhood and adulthood.
“I wish people knew more about the resources out there for school help, therapy, special needs children. It’s out there! They just make it very hard to find!” - Lori
There are plenty of great resources available for foster parents. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites, and are always looking for new ones. If you know of any we should include, please let us know!
“That birth parents are struggling and need our support whenever possible.” - Karen
3. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone considering becoming a foster parent?
There are approximately 5,000 children in foster care in Virginia. Of these children and youth, 1,700 have the goal of adoption, and more than 700 of are waiting for adoptive families. If you’re looking into being a foster parent, we applaud you! Becoming a foster parent requires a lot…
“Have a strong, personal support system especially among fellow foster parents. This is extremely important for retention.You will get frustrated at times due to lack of communication, support, or with a child’s behavior. Be aware that fostering requires much more time (appointments, visits, meetings etc.) than raising your biological kids. Really learn about the impact of trauma on brain development. You will see patterns and can understand behaviors better.” - Karen
“Make sure, even if they are just in foster care, to get photos of family and records because even people in foster care want to know history and where they came from.” - Lori
Foster parenthood is an incredible journey, and one that you do not have to go alone. If you haven’t joined NewFound Families yet, membership is FREE to all foster, adoptive, and kinship families residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you’re a foster parent who’s feeling fatigued or burnt out, check out our recent blog post Compassion Satisfaction for helpful tips on recharging and taking care of YOU!