Are you considering starting the journey to becoming a foster parent? Here’s my best advice: make that phone call, send that e-mail. Connect with your local agency and attend an information session. There’s no obligation, and I like to remind people that you have “veto power” every step of the way until you actually have a child in your home (and that is a LOT of steps!). Still wondering if fostering is right for you? Here are five questions that might help you decide if you’re ready to take the plunge.
Can I support reunification when it is safe?
Many people go into foster care with an ultimate goal of adopting a foster child. Here’s the reality: the vast majority of kids in care start with a goal of reunification with a family member. You will likely meet members of the child’s family and may work closely with them. It’s absolutely critical that you are able to treat families with respect and support reunification when it is safe for the child. If you’re not sure you can do this, foster care is likely not the best choice for you.
Have I rallied my village?
You cannot foster in isolation. Before you start classes, before you fill out paperwork, before you get your home inspected for all the things, rally your village. Talk to your family and close friends. Gauge their openness to helping support your foster care journey and keep them in the loop as it unfolds. Talk to leaders in your faith community. Talk to therapists. Talk to your boss. You will need them all!
Am I ready to make my schedule extremely flexible?
One of the things that surprised me most about foster care is the amount of time that I had to miss from work. Not just when a child was sick or daycare was closed (every parent misses those days), but for the multitude of court hearings, medical and therapy appointments, social worker, CASA, lawyer and family visits. Not to mention when a child came into care suddenly and had to be picked up. Many evenings and weekends will also be consumed with a variety of required visits and appointments (and you may be required to transport the child to some or all of them). Few people have the time to do all of this. The question is this: are you willing to make the time?
Am I prepared for the mandatory hospitality?
Another thing that surprised me about being a foster parent is the amount of privacy that I lost. During the home study process, every detail of your life is laid bare before a social worker. If you choose to become a foster parent, every part of your home and much of the rhythm of your daily life will continue to be on display to a variety of professionals on a regular basis. Sometimes the visits and questions feel invasive, especially if you are person who values your privacy.
Does my heart say yes?
This, I think, is the most important question of all. Becoming a foster parent will likely be the hardest thing you ever choose to do. It may well also be the most rewarding. If your heart and intuition tell you that the time is right, make the call!
Foster parents, what would you add? What questions helped you decide that you were ready to take the plunge?