Foster Parenting... Is It Right for You? 5 Questions to Ask

foster mom and child playing with art supplies

Foster it right for you? Maybe your spouse or partner brought up the topic, or you've been thinking about it yourself. You can change many lives by bringing a foster child into your home, but there are some questions you need to ask yourself first.

Parents have a lot to manage, from providing love and care to provide for their entire family financially. Understanding these foster parent responsibilities will help you prepare for the journey.

Here are five crucial questions you must ask yourself before considering fostering.

1. Can You Love and Raise a Foster Child as Your Own?

Before considering fostering, you must consider whether you can see a foster child's life as your own.

Youth ages enter the foster care system for various reasons, such as abuse, mental health, and neglect. Many children in the system are dealing with trauma; some may react to these feelings by closing themselves off or lashing out.

It's crucial to remember that these children require patience, support, additional care, and understanding. They may also need a different approach to parenting.

At least one in seven children in the United States has experienced abuse or neglect from a birth parent. However, the actual number is likely higher due to underreporting. These children may experience physical problems, such as malnutrition and bruises, as well as psychological ones, such as anxiety and PTSD.

Some children may react to their feelings and fears by lashing out, becoming argumentative, or throwing tantrums. Some cases are easy, while others may present a challenge. Parents must be ready to accept a foster child as their own and undergo whatever challenges they face.

2. Can You Financially Support a Foster Child?

We often hear questions about foster parenting costs, which is good to ask. Parents need to be able to support a family financially.

Factors to consider include:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • School activities
  • Transportation and gas
  • School necessities and supplies
  • Healthcare costs
  • Allowance
  • Family outings and activities

Of course, these are only a few of the most common expenses. For instance, your child might want to go on a school field trip or to a friend's birthday party.

Our recent blog post lets you learn more about the financial impact and responsibilities. As a foster parent, you also receive benefits and monthly maintenance payments to help cover some of these costs. The child welfare system makes it easier for families to foster children.

It's essential to be realistic about the costs and whether you and your family are financially ready to support another child. Talk to your spouse or partner about raising foster children, and take some time to research what it might cost. Learning to budget is also a good idea to help manage your finances and ensure you're prepared for emergencies.

That said, there are resources out there that can help you financially support a foster child. Online communities provide tips, and The Virginia Department of Social Services offers food programs.

Here in Virginia, a program known as CarePortal connects families in need with others who can help.

3. Do You Have a Support System?

A proper foster care support system will make your time as a caregiver much more straightforward. You should find someone to contact in case of an emergency, contact if you have questions, and someone if you need a helping hand.

Your support system can include friends, family, doctors, therapists, spouses, church members, neighbors, etc.

Essentially, you want a strong group of people around you that can make your job caring for a child easier. Sometimes you'll feel tired or struggle to keep up with all the responsibilities of independent living, and that's when a support system comes to the rescue. If you're new to fostering, you'll likely have many questions.

The stronger your support system, the better off you'll be.

4. How Will This Change Our Family?

Whether you've never had a child or have some kids at home, you must consider how fostering will impact your family life. That's why speaking with your spouse and kids is critical before deciding.

Fostering is an adjustment for everyone. And while there are many benefits of foster parenting, there will also be changes. For instance, your kid's transition into adulthood may make having a foster child challenging.

Take time to hear everyone's opinion on the idea. Remember that all feelings are valid; if someone in your family is against the idea, fostering might not be right now. Everyone must be ready for the change so the foster children you bring home feel loved and accepted.

5. Do you know if this is the right time?

Some people feel a strong calling to foster, while others like the idea but are still determining the right time. Fostering is a big decision, like starting a new job, moving someplace new, or getting married.

Make sure you have the time to dedicate to a new family member.

Give yourself a Background Check: How busy are you right now, both at work and with your family? Do you have a lot of social activities?

Think about how fostering or adoption will change your life and whether you will make those changes.

What Are Other Ways to Help Foster Children Besides Foster Parenting?

If you are unable to care for a foster child, or you're looking for additional ways to help a child in foster care, there's a lot you can do to assist foster youth.

For instance, consider mentoring young adults and helping them learn valuable life skills. Volunteering your time at group homes is also an excellent way to help foster care organizations.

Donations are always appreciated as well. If you don't have money to spare, consider donating school supplies, food to food banks, backpacks, personal hygiene items, clothing, etc.

Foster Parenting...Is It Right for You?

A self-evaluation of your current lifestyle and financial situation is the first step any potential foster parent should take.

So, foster it right for you? After asking yourself these five questions, the only way to find out is to contact our foster parent advocate for more information.

Here at FosterVA, we want to be sure that all aspiring foster parents learn how they can help. You can assist one of Virginia's many foster children in need as long as you're prepared for the journey.

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