Foster parents, like other people, learn best from experience. Which means that those new to fostering are at a disadvantage. Even if they have already raised children of their own, Foster parenting presents some unique challenges.
The children come with a troubled and troubling history. They begin as “temporary,” possibly in transit. You and they may both need to feel each other out, as if you are on probation. Meanwhile, they are wards of the DCS. The Department of Child Services maintains control and you are subject to their policies: Physical punishment is not allowed. You may only leave them with other licensed foster parents. And more rules.
As experienced foster parents, you can be an asset to the newcomers. What better way to continue and expand your own continuing commitment and love for children without a permanent home!
Perhaps you already know of someone. If not, ask the case manager or find out names of the beginners at your next foster parent training. Don’t wait to be assigned. Approach a first-timer and offer your support. Many possibilities exist.
Mentoring. They may call and ask how to handle certain unique behavioral problems. Or what to do when a child they have come to love is about to be transferred. How to relate to their DCS worker. What to do about false allegations.
They may have questions about the possibility of adoption. What all is involved? And more importantly, how to think the matter though. Adoption is a lifetime commitment. You may have already done that and can share your own experience. They may ask your advice on how to find a good attorney, one who is knowledgeable about adoptions from foster care and is effective.
They may need moral support when they get discouraged. Someone with whom to share difficult moments. To be reminded of why they became a foster parent in the first place.
Sometimes, you can help with practical logistics. Babysitting can provide a break. If you are still foster parents yourselves, you can fill in for one another. Both of you will gain from the backup. If you have already “retired,” this might be a good reason to maintain your license. You can become a “foster grandparent.”
Each foster child is a unique challenge. Each child needs a special type of reassurance. That is true of foster parents too. It’s a tough but rewarding job. And foster-to-adopt parents can enlarge their experiences by sharing it with others. All of those involved benefit.