You are considering becoming a foster parent- the excitement and joy of welcoming a child in need of a loving home is beginning to fill your thoughts every day. But where do you start? The first step is having serious and open conversations with anyone involved in this amazing journey.
Bringing a new member into your dynamic can be hard, especially when that new member may not have a history of stable and loving environments. While it’s incredibly rewarding for you and the child, the journey doesn’t come without challenges. These five conversations will help prepare you to make the best decision for you and your family.
Conversation #1: Money
Money is the leading cause of divorce for a reason: it can be a hot topic even for closely-bonded couples that are strong communicators. One of the main issues surrounding foster care is that it can be an expensive process. While it can cost a lot of money to bring a child into your home, there are dozens of financial assistance programs at both the state and federal levels built specifically for foster families to make it affordable… it’s just a matter of finding them and applying for them (which our team at The Magnolia Resource would be more than happy to help with!).
Conversation #2: Time/Energy
Juggling meals, carpools, sports, school activities, family time, work schedules can be a full-time commitment. Finding the right balance for your unique family takes discipline, energy, and heart.
It’s important to talk with your partner and your support team about how you will share the responsibility so there aren’t any conflicts or unintended stressors when the time comes. Be open and honest about your expectations for raising this child; create a comfortable plan and expect that the plan may need to be adjusted from time to time.
An interesting side note: a study conducted by the journal of Marriage and Family found that when it comes to spending time with children, quality trumps quantity. So don’t worry if you may not have extensive windows of time to spend with your children… what’s important is that when you do, you do so in a meaningful way.
Conversation #3: Support Network
Many say it takes a village to raise a family and they are absolutely right! Raising children, including foster children, is not an easy thing to do. A strong support network is vital for a successful family life balance. It’s not always going to be easy—if it were, it wouldn’t be as rewarding as it is. It’s important for foster parents to have someone to lean on during those tough times.
This can take many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to be someone else watching your child. It can be as simple as having someone for a phone call, a conversation, or a meal. Simply having someone to talk and vent to about your experience is an excellent outlet for stress, doubts, and celebrations.
Conversation #4: With Your Kids
This one is dependent upon what your current family dynamic looks like. If you already have children, whether they’re biological, adopted, or fostered, it’s important that they are included in conversations and preparations for another child coming into the household.
Talk to your children in an honest way and don’t be afraid to answer any questions they may have. For older children, explaining the profound goodness of why you’re choosing to foster or adopt. This can also be a great chance for your children to gain some perspective on how blessed they are: it may have never occurred to them that there are children out there just like them without a family or a loving home. Surely, this will have them eager to help and to meet their new brother or sister!
Check out this great article on how to talk to your children about fostering.
Conversation #5: With Yourself
Yep! We saved the best for last. Even after all these conversations, after countless hours of research, only you will be able to decide if you’re truly ready to become a foster parent.
Questions to ask yourself: What can I do today to best prepare to become a foster parent? Am I prepared to have social workers/professionals in my life on a regular basis? Is my marriage/partnership in a strong place? After compiling research, do I feel confident in my understanding and expectations of the foster care process?
It’s okay to be a little nervous. No one is a perfect parent. Remember what you are doing for a foster child is incredible and you add a beautiful chapter to their journey.
If you need any help with becoming a foster parent or adopting a child, we would love to help. Point you in the right direction. Join our Facebook page, sign up for our emails below, or contact us with more questions!