• July/August 2021
  • Vol. 22, No. 7

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Skills to Consider Before Becoming a Foster Parent

Aside from the inherent commitment, generosity, and love needed to become a successful foster parent, there are additional skills and considerations that prospective caregivers should have before bringing a child in need into their homes and hearts. Verywell Family, an online resource for parenting content and support, compiled the following checklist as a starting point for individuals preparing to foster:

  • Honest self-evaluation—Take ample time to think about it. Consider how a change of this magnitude can impact family life, especially if you already have children. It is important that all members of the immediate family are on board with this decision even if some extended family or friends are less supportive. Also, ask yourself, "Do I have the patience, support system, and ability to love and say 'goodbye' needed to care for a child in foster care?"
  • Effective communication—You must be able to effectively listen, share your point of view, and advocate for child, self, and family with a diverse group of people, including social workers and agency staff, birth families, doctors, therapists, judges, educators, and others.
  • Ability to embrace the challenge—Working with an unfamiliar and potentially confusing foster care system can be difficult, and it is a challenge compounded by the fact that many children in foster care have histories of extreme trauma that can manifest as behavioral issues. Is your family equipped with the ability and willingness to face these hurdles?
  • Positive discipline and conflict resolution—When faced with conflict, foster parents should be able to maintain their "cool" and utilize positive discipline skills. Children, especially those with traumatic pasts, may test your limits and challenge rules. 
  • Compassion—Be kind to your child and yourself. Understand that a child's negative feelings and behaviors may trigger negative feelings in you. Part of being a foster parent is helping a child grieve their losses in a healthy way and teaching and modeling effective coping strategies.
  • Collaboration—In addition to being effective communicators, foster parents must be effective collaborators. Regardless of the audience, come prepared for meetings and be a willing participant. Do not be afraid to contribute your perspective. If you feel "out of the loop," be proactive in asking questions and getting answers. 
To learn more, read "6 Skills You Need to Master Before Becoming a Foster Parent."

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