I polled friends and family via Facebook recently about common fears in foster parenting. I asked them if they had ever thought about fostering, what held them back? This was one of the more common concerns: Will I have enough space in my schedule for the demands of being a foster parent?
This is a valid concern. For most of us, our schedules are filled to the brim. We’re busy people, with a seemingly never-ending list of commitments between work and school and relationships and hobbies and kids’ events and volunteer opportunities. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to consider adding even one more thing.
And certainly, being a foster parent will have an impact on your schedule. Adding a child to your home is going to change your schedule, no matter how that child comes to you or what your current schedule looks like. When it’s a foster child, though, there are social worker visits, court hearings, family visits, and often additional therapy or medical appointments to address trauma-related needs. And these are just the practical needs! Foster children need a lot from you emotionally, too. It’s wise to consider all of these things.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to help you make this decision:
How close are you to the typical services most foster children need? For example, I live very central to most services in my county. I can think of only a small number of appointments any of my foster children have ever had that were farther than a 15-minute drive. If you live farther away from central services, you may find the need to be “in town” multiple nights of the week more exhausting.
How supportive is your foster agency regarding your family’s schedule? Are you expected to supervise visits and provide all of the transportation? Whenever I talk to someone who fosters with a different county, I’m surprised at the differences between agencies. If you will be expected to supervise family visits, that’s quite different from being able to drop the kids off with their social worker and run errands for an hour, especially if you have other children you need to plan around. If you (and your partner, if you’re married) both work full-time outside of the home, will the agency schedule home visits in the evening? If you have the opportunity to talk to current fosters parent with that agency, they might be able to answer some of these questions for you.
How flexible is your work? I work remotely from my home, and though I have a normal 9-5 work day, I can still do my job if I have kids home with me because they’re sick. For my friends who don’t have that luxury, especially those who are fostering as a single parent, it is much more difficult.
What are you willing to give up? If your schedule is already impossibly full, as many of ours are, you can’t add something without expecting to give something else up. What are you willing to let go of in order to make room to do this?
Your schedule, and how the practical demands of foster care will impact it, should definitely be a consideration, but it doesn’t need to hold you back. In the end, we all find time for the things that we consider most important.