8 Most Common Fostering Challenges

foster parent sitting watching a kid play with blocks

Although fostering is a wonderful way to change a child's life for the better, there are times when it may feel like an uphill battle. Whether you're fostering for the first time or you've been raising foster children for years, you'll have to face different obstacles. 

This is a normal part of parenting; you must remember you're not alone. We're here to advise you on how to deal with the 8 most common fostering challenges. Learn how to work through challenging behaviors, saying goodbye, and all the uncertainties. 

With some help and by taking the proper steps, you can overcome any challenge and become a great foster parent. 

1. The Licensing Process

To foster a child, parents must complete a licensing process first. The requirements vary by state but always include attending training and completing a home study. 

In Virginia, foster parents must be at least 18 years old. Single parents or couples must have the time and energy required to care for a child or children. Applicants must meet the following requirements: 

  • Attend an orientation meeting
  • Finish pre-service training
  • Complete the home study
  • Submit a DMV check, child neglect/abuse check, and a Fingerprint Criminal Record check
  • Complete a minimum of three face-to-face interviews
  • Take a physical and provide a report of good health
  • Verify you have enough income to care for a child
  • Provide the names of three references

The home study process takes the longest and involves interviews, background checks, home visits, inspections, and more. 

To first-time applicants, this may seem overwhelming. And the licensing process does take time. However, it ensures that a child and a foster family will make a good match. 

Training will help you prepare for the challenges you might face and what the process entails. It also helps when you understand what to expect, and you can get many of your questions answered on our blog. 

2. Planning for the Future 

As we said earlier, each foster situation is unique depending on the experience of abuse or neglect and the child's behavior, if other biological children are in involved with placement, and the active or nonparticipation of the birth family.

Foster parents may have a child in their care for years or a few months. The duration is always difficult for a social worker to define, as every child's journey is unique to them. 

In 54% of case plans, the ultimate goal is to reunite foster children with their birth parents or primary caregivers. Often, foster families can feel as if they're stuck waiting for answers. It takes time for those meetings and court procedures to take place to determine the best solution for a child. 

However, reunification may also seem abrupt, and parents must learn to say goodbye. That's another challenge we'll cover more later. 

This uncertainty makes planning for the future tough. From family activities to travel plans, there may be times when you're not sure how long you'll have a foster child in your care. You might want to take them on a trip and create new memories together, but what if the move comes sooner than you expect? 

It can be challenging for the family and one of the biggest challenges for foster children. You may have to answer difficult questions and provide additional support. 

3. Adjusting Your Schedules

You don't have to become a stay-at-home parent to foster. However, you and your partner may need to adjust your schedules to meet the needs of a foster child. 

Responsibilities include taking them to appointments, helping them with schoolwork, communicating challenges, working with foster care workers, making court appearances, filling out paperwork, etc.

For instance, some foster children need to attend regular appointments, from doctor and dentist visits to therapy appointments.

Many children in the foster care system deal with trauma. 20% of children in the foster system that have been abused experience symptoms of PTSD. Treatment may include psychotherapy, prescribing medications, and so on. 

Treatment requires frequent visits and follow-up appointments. Parents need to prepare for this and adjust their schedules as necessary. You may also have to change a plan to be a part of their life, such as attending concerts, games, plays, etc. 

It can feel overwhelming sometimes, which is why having a foster parenting routine helps. Creating a workable schedule will make sure you have enough time in the day for all the most critical tasks. 

4. Contacting Legal Guardians for Permission

It's important to remember that foster parents aren't considered legal guardians. As such, they don't have the power to sign any legal documents on behalf of a foster child. 

This hurdle may come up often, especially when it comes to medical forms for a physician or when teachers require a parent or guardian's signature to allow kids on a field trip. 

In Virginia, the Commonwealth has worked hard to normalize the process for what a foster parent can sign for and when they need permission from the legal guardian.

Instead, you'll have to reach out to their legal guardian or birth parents. Of course, obtaining a signature and getting permission can take time, especially if you can't reach them immediately. These restrictions can slow down or even stop appointments, travel plans, school permission forms, etc. 

It can be a frustrating experience, especially when foster parents may need to rework their schedules to account for the delays. It might mean missing work, changing plans, or rescheduling your appointments. 

Unfortunately, this is one matter that foster parents have little control over, and the only solution is to remain flexible and patient. 

5. Additional Rules That May Feel Restrictive

Each state puts forth rules regarding foster home requirements, travel restrictions, and other matters. For example, depending on the state, foster children may not be able to travel to different states or have sleepovers in other people's homes. 

Make sure you brush up on all the rules and regulations to know what you can and cannot do. These restrictions may make family vacations and visits to relatives difficult or impossible. 

Many foster parents have to ask, "Should I take my foster child on vacation out of state?" The answer may depend on the restrictions foster families face. Always check with your Child Placing Agency for guidance. 

6. Fostering or Parenting Adopted Children With Challenging Behavior

Each foster child is unique; some may require additional patience or help. Raising children with behavioral challenges is one of the toughest tasks parents face, and children exhibiting behavioral issues may need counseling or therapy and a different approach to discipline. 

Remember, many children in the foster care system are dealing with trauma. They may exhibit attachment disorders, PTSD, ADHD, or aggressive behavior. You must understand trauma triggers and take a trauma-informed approach to care. 

You'll learn more about this in training. However, you can also supplement your learning by studying more about trauma-informed care. 

7. Co-Parenting With the Birth Parents

Co-parenting is becoming more common these days. There are pros and cons to co-parenting with a child's birth parents.

One advantage of co-parenting is sharing the responsibilities of raising a child with them. It's also often very beneficial for a foster child. 

Setting up a schedule for visits and keeping them in the loop regarding appointments can make caring for a foster child much more manageable. 

That said, some foster parents may struggle with the idea of co-parenting, and they might feel mixed emotions. Deciding what's best for a child is the primary goal of any parent, and you have to keep this in mind when raising them. 

8. Saying Goodbye

One of the hardest parts for any foster parent is learning to say goodbye. It happens whenever a foster child is reunified with their birth parents, a legal guardian, or is adopted. In any case, saying goodbye is tough. 

Often, foster parents don't know what happens to a foster child after they leave. You bond with the foster kids in your care, and letting them go is a difficult challenge. 

Learning to deal with that grief is the best thing you can do as a foster parent. Make sure to consider your mental health and seek therapy if it will help.

Many foster parents attend grief counseling sessions to manage stress and sorrow. You can only be the best parent for a child if you're emotionally and physically healthy. 

How Do You Deal With the Challenges of Being a Foster Parent?

Now that you know some of the difficulties behind raising foster children, you're likely wondering what you can do to make the journey easier. First, remember that you're not alone and that there are people who can help make parenting easier. 

Attend foster training classes, read up on parenting and the foster process, and reach out to support groups for foster families. Parenting can be challenging, but you can overcome difficulties with the proper knowledge and mindset. 

Overcome the 8 Most Common Fostering Challenges

Each fostering situation will be unique so that you may encounter different challenges than another foster family. However, certain commonalities among fostering families come up again and again. Those obstacles are especially difficult for first-time foster parents. 

Still, with these tips and the right help, you can overcome the eight most common fostering challenges. 

The first step in becoming a foster or adoptive parent in Virginia is to reach out to us here at FosterVA. We'll help educate you about the process and what to expect. Please send us a message to get started today. 

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