Monday, October 09, 2017

How to Prepare to Be a Foster Parent

If you are considering becoming a foster parent or are already working on fulfilling the requirements, welcome! I know it's a big decision and that you may never feel fully prepared. Along with the steps to qualify to be a foster parent (application, home study, classes, medical check, criminal record check, safety check) I would have loved a list of ideas on how to prepare for the arrival of our Little Ones. Often we have very limited time to prepare and therefore it really helps to do as much as you can beforehand. Although this list may be dependent on the age of the child that will be entering your home, here are some practical tips to help you prepare your heart, mind, and home.

How to Prepare to Be a Foster Parent

1. Have a list of questions by the phone. When you get that phone call, adrenaline kicks in and you may forget all that you wanted to ask. Your questions may relate to age, gender, special needs, estimated length of placement, diet, number of visits and their location and length, allergies, location of daycare or school etc. Our visits have varied from one to three per week–will this work for you?

2. Collect donation of clothes for the age-range you are planning on fostering. I try to have maybe 20 items in each age group, male and female, ready to go. When you do your homestudy, you specify the ages your prefer. We started with a broad range of one to eight years of age and have since decreased it to the ages of zero to three based on the needs and stages of our biological kids.

3. Wipes. Diaper sizes will vary but wipes are always useful. Even if your child is out of diapers, I find them useful for cleaning up on car rides and outings.

4. Toys/books. We try to have a few toys available for each age. So far the biggest hits for our younger children (under the age of four) have been the train table and play kitchen with food.

5. Relief/Respite Worker Support. You will need physical and emotional help. Have family and friends take the Safe Babies Relief Course (to care for children under the age of one) or apply to be relief support with criminal record checks given to the social worker.

6. Frozen meals. Once a child arrives, time is a lot more limited as you are trying to figure out routines/needs/schedules, getting medical checks done and filling out paperwork. Having a few healthy frozen meals ready to go is so helpful!

7. Step back to clear up time–what can you let go of? We have had to let go of certain things to clear up space in our lives. These have mostly been volunteer positions and we do not regret it. In order to invest what you want into your own children, partners and new additions, you will need more time and energy.

8. Connect with other foster parents. Whether it's playgroups or local Facebook foster parent support groups, having someone that has been there is so helpful when you have questions or just need to vent in frustration. If you cannot find these, please ask another foster parent or your resource social worker.

9. Try to find a local foster-friendly medical clinic. You can ask your family doctor if they will take on your foster child but in the case that they don't, find a medical clinic that will. There is a medical check that needs to be done in the first week and some clinics are more receptive to that than others. Check in with other foster parents in your area for recommendations. You will likely have more medical check ups than the average as we often err on the safe side and go in for smaller issues. Also, the children usually have greater needs.

10. Stock up on toothbrushes and brushes. Most children just come with the outfit that they are wearing so toiletries are usually not brought along.

11. Don't expect fostering to replace your income if you are leaving your job. You need to be financially secure. The payments in fostering are minimal and are to be used for gas, diapers, clothing, formula/milk etc. Can you financially afford to foster?

12. Know your role. You will likely fall in love and form an attachment with your newest addition and that is wonderful! Remember that the primary goal is for the biological parents to be given the opportunity to get the help and support that they need for reunification. If that is not possible, a forever home would be in their best interest. Our role is to care for them deeply while they are in our home.

Thank you for the work that you have done to get to this point and please connect with another foster parent, like myself, if you have any questions at all!


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How to prepare to be a foster parent. If you have started the journey, what can you do to be most prepared?

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