Do you have what it takes to be a foster parent? Many people feel they do not. They think foster parenting requires extensive education and years of experience in caring for other people’s children. Actually, foster carers are typical people like you who have no special credentials except concern and affection for children who need a temporary home that is stable and secure. Here is a general list of what foster kids do need from their caregivers.
Like any child, a foster kid needs and deserves affection. He or she wants to know that someone cares. The fact that someone unknown would willingly take an unrelated child into their home for a proper upbringing helps to build trust in foster children.
Foster children also need discipline. Many times they come from homes where they were not supervised or corrected. They are often left on their own without adult guidance or protection. As a result, they learned to do whatever they want, and that sometimes involves breaking rules or breaching boundaries. All kids need to learn to obey authority figures, beginning with their parents, whether in a foster home or family of origin. Kids feel more secure when they are taught self-discipline and to respect the discipline of foster parents as well as others.
Mutual respect is critical in a foster home. Some children never learned to respect themselves or others, nor the property of other people. They disregard people’s values and belongings to put their own interests first. Foster care parents help to teach children the importance of respect by showing respect to the foster child. This involves being a patient listener and explaining the household rules. Applying positive or negative consequences is also important to teach children right from wrong.
Foster children need security almost above all else. Some have been shuffled from one home to another, or back and forth between their parents and foster homes. They hardly dare settle into a new family for fear they will soon have to leave. Foster parents need to instill a sense of security. They should never threaten to send a foster child away for doing something wrong, unless that is the only consequence that can apply to a certain behavior. A consistent schedule and routine activities help to provide a secure family framework around foster kids who may feel vulnerable and afraid.
Even when an individual becomes a foster parent, a sense of family should be formed with the foster child. A family can be two people, or many, sharing activities that help them to bond and appreciate each other. Extended family members can play a role, too, in welcoming the foster child into their lives and treating him or her equally with other kids in the family.
Guidance is important for a foster child who may have had little direction in his or her life previously. In fact, life might have been chaotic or a vacuum, with minimal orientation to specific goals or normal behaviors. Foster kids often benefit from guidance in their education and social skills. They may need help in learning new helpful habits while getting rid of bad habits. Sometimes family members teach by example, and other times a friendly conversation can offer guidance without being pushy or critical.
Many foster kids come from poor backgrounds or a difficult family life. Some have barely learned to survive, while others are fairly normal as their families adjust to a temporary transition. All foster kids can learn to appreciate new opportunities with their foster families that they otherwise would not have. Trips to the zoo, visiting a museum, a family vacation, or a seaside holiday will provide life-long memories to a young child who will be forever grateful.
Foster carers give much of themselves to children that come to share their lives for a while. The above list represents some of the most valuable things a foster parent can offer to a child that might otherwise never experience them.