Being a foster family is a very specific situation, unlike any other, you are supposed to love a child as your own, but only for a while. Hosting a foster child can be very rewarding, it can be life saving for the child, but it is always difficult and puzzling.
When you intend to be a foster family, there are many things to consider in order to make it work. I consulted with foster parents, children who were in foster care and parents who had their biological children in foster care. Here are some ‘rules’ we came up with:
- The first and most important rule is to understand the baseline: These children need a temporary home and ultimately will be placed with their biological parents or family. Fostering sometimes leads to adoption, true, but it should not be seen as a way to adopt.
- Fostering a child should never be about the money. It is about offering a child a safe haven!
- Expect it to be hard. You will have to love unconditionally, but temporarily. This is a great challenge, and often the child will not make it easy on you. From a former foster child: “Foster kids come with baggage, we come with behavioral problems when we are little, we come from sexually abusive, physically and emotionally abusive backgrounds. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to learn the hard way at times. We are going to make you sad and make you want to give up at times... LOVE US ANYWAY. Keep believing in is. Do it anyway. Love us anyway. Believe in those kids when we can't believe in ourselves.
- Love the child as your own. Foster children need to feel loved and accepted more than anyone. They have been uprooted, some more than once.
- Present your child as your child, not your foster child or newest addition. This child needs to feel accepted, part of a family, not just a passer by, even though he may be. For this moment in time, this child needs to be safe and wanted in your home.
- Don’t judge the child, his upbringing or his biological parents. Don’t jump to conclusions. Your child’s upbringing is as much a part of him as his body, so judging will only leave your will confused. You will never have the whole story. From a mother whose children were put in the foster system: “I was reunited with my 18yo and my 17yo two years ago. They went into foster care and were adopted when they were small. I was accused of endangerment for letting their father care for them while I worked. They were found walking down the street alone. I was in a very difficult situation and wasn't able to get them back."
- Don’t think of yourself as a savior, think of yourself as a safe and loving haven along the way. “You cannot save everyone, but you can put your oar in to a persons life, and pull a couple of strokes in the right direction. Then all you can do is hope the current carries them the rest of the way safely. If you can see yourself as a part of a chain of people who will all love this kid, all trying to help them to their path, rather than a saviour of some kind, it might be for you.”
Opening up your home to a foster child is a wonderful thing to do. I hope this post inspires some people to become a safe haven for children who are in need of one. I hope it can offer some guidance and will bring some love in the hearts of these children.
Read my article 'Foster Care: Giving Homes to Children Who Need One'