When you arrive in a new city, you never quite know what it’s going to be like, no matter how much you read up on it. It’s much the same with foster care; no matter how much you read about it, you’ll never be 100% prepared until you dive right in.
But that’s not to say we won’t do everything we can to get you ready for the experience. Today we’re going to look at a few of the things that might surprise you. (If you have concerns with any of the following points, we’d be happy to talk with you about them.) The more you read, the more ready you’ll be to help a child in need.
How Short a Time The Child Might Be Around
As we mentioned in our previous blog, the median time that most children are in foster care is for just 13.5 months. While some certainly stay longer, foster care isn’t always the long-term dedication that many people think it is. While this can be difficult for some foster parents — especially those who get attached to a child and expect them to stick around for good — it’s just what some people are looking for. So if you’re scared of a long-term commitment, consider taking in a child who is on track to rejoin the family before too long.
Foster Children Are Everywhere
If you have school-aged children of your own, you probably don’t think about the variety of household situations that their friends return to after school. Some are going home to nuclear families, but many are going home to empty houses because their mom has to work until 9 pm. Others are being welcomed by grandparents, and, yes, still others are being welcomed by foster parents. They’re all around, so if you decide to foster a child, know that you’re not the only one!
So the next time that your kid comes home from school and says that they got a new student in class, your first thought will probably be that their family just moved to the area. But it’s also very possible that they’re being dropped off every day by their new foster parent.
Adjustments Take Time
You could give a foster child a new bed with newly-painted walls and a full room of toys, and that would be great! But it’s not their room, the one that they’re used to. Most of them know that this room is temporary and that they probably won’t be around for long. Don’t worry, they do appreciate what you’ve done for them, but they’re nervous. For some time, you’ll still be a stranger, and they don’t know how nice you are.
Be patient. They might feel like they’re in a hotel for a while, but the longer they stay the more comfortable they’ll feel.
Your Foster Child Might Not Talk Much
No matter how open and inviting you are to your foster child, they might not reciprocate. At first you might be hurt by this, but don’t be. Remember, many of these kids have been through a lot, and even though you’re a loving person, you’re also a stranger for a certain amount of time. And because they don’t yet know you, they might not be ready to tell you about the bad situations they’ve found themselves a part of.
Or They Might Talk a LOT!
Sometimes a child might open up because their past was on the lighter side; their non-abusive parent neglected them because of alcoholism. Certainly it’s a bad situation, but they can still talk about it. Other times there seems to be some miraculous force-field around a child that has allowed them to let all of the bad stuff slide right off their back.
Other kids might bring up instances from their lives with the intention of shocking you, just to see how you’ll react. Or they might directly compare you to other foster parents they’ve had. It’s something you have to prepare for, because every foster child you encounter will be very different.
How Much You Get Out of It
If you’re even considering becoming a foster parent, we know that you already have a big heart. While you might have some idea of the warm glow you’ll be able to get from helping children in need, there’s no way to know exactly how much you’re going to get out of it until you dive in. (And don’t worry about the dive; our foster care agency will be there to help you through the process so that you can make the most out of your experience with foster children.)
The fact is, you can never be completely ready to become a foster parent simply by reading about it. We’re sure you have even more questions, so continue to read our blog and contact us with any concern you might have. We’d love to hear from you!