What led you to become a foster parent? The question was posed to a variety of people from different ages and backgrounds — single, married, widowed or divorced. “We wanted to expand our family,” said the married couple after years of infertility challenges. “We wanted to start a family,” said the same-sex couple. “I have room in my home and love in my heart,” said the mother of two and grandmother of six. “I wanted to be a positive role model like my foster dad was for me,” said the young man who recently started his own adult life.
Every foster parent has a story, just like every foster child or youth. The journeys may differ, but the end goal remains the same, to support families and youth during their times of need. Whether providing youth with a safe place to stay, connecting adults to parenting resources or mentoring kids with mental health challenges, we honor every child, every person and every story during National Foster Care Month.
What Does It Mean to Be a Foster Parent?
By simplest definition, a foster parent is an adult who temporarily provides care for a child whose birth parent is unable to care for them. But being a foster parent is so much more. Foster parents are nurturers, caregivers, role models, teachers, mentors, nurses, chauffeurs, housekeepers, cheerleaders and so much more. Foster parents are there to hug away the nightmares, help with homework and cook homemade meals. Foster parents are the glue that holds everything together for kids who are scared, lonely or testing boundaries. Foster parents are flexible and creative, finding innovative ways to connect with the kids who have seen too much during their short lifetimes.
The current pandemic also can lead to additional challenges due to disruption in routine and lack of contact with friends and teachers. Here are a few tips that may be helpful during this challenging time.
- Try to maintain a consistent routine, including family mealtimes, schoolwork or learning periods, as well as free (or play) time. Regular wake up and bedtimes also can help.
- Stay connected with others through phone calls, texts, emails and video calls. Don’t forget to stay connected with healthcare practitioners, teachers and counselors through telehealth visits.
- Recognize and acknowledge your child’s feelings of fear, anxiety or frustration. Answer their questions about what they may have heard or read but remind them that you are doing what you can to stay healthy by remaining at home, washing hands and following suggested rules from healthcare experts.
Healthychildren.org offers ideas for during this challenging time, with articles and blogs including tips to keep the calm at home, caring for children in foster care during COVID-19, and teens and COVID-19.
Types of Foster Care and Foster Parents
There are different types of foster care arrangements, based on the needs of each child and family.
- Kinship care can involve grandparents, aunts, uncles or other relatives who are able to provide a safe and stable environment for children.
- Kinship care also could include people known by, but not related to a child, such as a family friend or teacher.
- Therapeutic foster care (also called treatment foster care) provides additional behavioral or health supports for youth who need time to develop coping skills and heal from trauma.
- Emergency foster care provides a short-term place for children who need immediate removal from an unsafe home or situation.
- Respite care provides a short-term break between foster families and children to rest and recharge, often as an overnight or weekend situation.
Signs You May Be Ready to Become a Foster Parent
- You understand that children and youth in foster care are more than the sum of their circumstances. (Check out SAFY’s I Am More Than campaign).
- You accept that there will be challenges, but you are ready to face them together.
- You understand that your role may be a temporary one, but your positive impact can last a lifetime.
- You are ready to commit to the background checks, licensing requirements and training that will equip you with important foster parenting skills.
- You are flexible and able to adapt to a child’s unique needs.
Every child deserves a family and a place to call home. That’s why SAFY thanks all foster families and child welfare professionals who help us work toward our mission of Preserving Families and Securing Futures.