What Qualities do successful foster parents have?

How to be a successful Foster or Adoptive parent in Virginia

How To Be A Successful Foster or Adoptive Parent in VA

Some of the Skills Needed To Be Successful As A Foster Parent

Deciding to foster or adopt a child in the foster care system in the United States is a life-changing decision for yourself and the child. These children have entered foster care because their birth parents could not care for them in the way they deserved.

Caring for a foster child can be difficult. Due to their experiences, they are at a much higher risk of mental health and behavioral challenges than their peers. However, these children still deserve love, care, and a parenting style that will allow them to heal from their trauma.

Parents who use these qualities of successful parenting when interacting with their foster child will provide a better environment for them to grow up in and thrive.

Appropriate Responding

One essential parenting skill to use regularly is appropriate responding. This is when the parent is able to manage their negative emotions and reactions and interact with their child in a productive way.

Challenges will arise when parenting a foster child. They will present negative feelings and responses that may seem out of proportion to the situation. It's easy to mirror that negativity in your parenting.

Some ways to calm your reactions and achieve appropriate responding could be by:

  • stepping back and taking a break from the conversation
  • taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before responding
  • taking the time to explore and process any unsettling feelings privately or with a professional before acting

Foster children have had a short life filled with chaos, abuse, and a lack of structure and support from their birth families and possibly other foster care placements. Responding to them with negativity can cause further trauma and a lack of respect for you and any other adult who may come into their life.

Accepting Rejection

Another key quality to successfully parenting a foster child is cultivating a level of acceptance of rejection. As mentioned above, children in foster care come from families where adult support couldn't be counted on. It's normal for their pain and rejection to be used against their foster parents.

Foster kids may often avoid getting attached, actively reject the foster parents, or create situations that would cause rejection. This is a way for them to avoid or anticipate what they fear most, which is more rejection.

Understanding that this is a defensive behavior intended to protect the child's sense of vulnerability around attachment will help the parent not react negatively or be offended.

Unconditional Love

This leads to another essential and delightful quality, unconditional love. Parents who go into foster care expecting a parent/child relationship filled with affection and loving attention from the foster child are bound to be disappointed. The parent needs to have realistic expectations.

Foster parenting may not be mutually beneficial. The child may not appreciate the parent. They may not bond with the parent. They may not express love for the parent.

The foster parent's role is not to fix the child, rescue the child, or receive affection from the child. The foster parent's role is to be a reliable adult figure available to provide safety, guidance, consistency, and affection.

Affection, healing, and attachment may result from this relationship, but often the road towards these mutually uplifting feelings is long and the relationship hard-won. Building trust and attachment with a child in foster care is a marathon, not a sprint.


As that is, patience is another critical quality for successful foster parenting. Patience as a foster parent involves allowing the child to be where they are and not imposing unrealistic expectations on their progress.

Celebrating the small steps and demonstrating support and acknowledgment for the little accomplishments along the way provides the child with the encouragement they need to keep moving forward.


Flexibility is another essential quality. The child welfare system is complex, with numerous stakeholders, service providers, and social workers intervening on behalf of the child.

This means dealing with regular interactions with foster care workers, regular treatment team meetings, court hearings, therapy sessions, and family visits.

Changes to the child's goals, visitation rights, adoption plan, services, and needs are all common occurrences and require foster parents to be able to adjust and regroup regularly.


Last but not least, the quality of balance will support foster parents and adoptive families in going the distance in their supportive role. This quality is easily overlooked but is, in fact, completely necessary for successful foster parenting.

Lifestyle balance will look different for everyone based on personality and preferences. However, incorporating habits such as self-care, structure, supportive relationships, and community involvement ensures that foster parents can meet the rising challenges of their childcare role with resiliency and strength.

Do you want to make a difference in a child's life? Click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent in Virginia.

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