How To Prepare to Be A Foster Parent: The First Time Foster’s Guide to Success 

How To Prepare to Be A Foster Parent: The First Time Foster’s Guide to Success

Choosing to bring a foster child into your home is a significant decision and one that can seem overwhelmingly to fully plan for.  

Children in foster care are as unique as their past experiences but there are many ways to prepare for success as a foster parent. We’ve compiled a list of tips for first time foster parents to ensure that you are physically and mentally ready to impact a child’s life for the better. 

Prepare for the Requirements 

One of the first steps you’ll want to take when considering bringing a foster child into your home is to ensure you meet all of the criteria for becoming a foster parent. Debra Corn Foster Care provides specific guidelines for foster parents and your local foster care agency or state will have specific requirements as well.  

Examples of Requirements include: 

  • Passing a background check 
  • Proof that you are a certain age (usually 21) 
  • Completing specialized foster training  
  • And perhaps, most importantly that you are willing and able to create a safe and loving environment where trust and confidence can flourish 

Examples of things that ARE NOT requirements: 

  • Specific religious affiliations 
  • Owning your home 
  • Being married 

Prepare to Understand 

Opening your home to a foster child means opening your mind to new ideas and experiences. Below are some ways to prepare. 

Research the Foster Experience 

Seek out books, podcasts, social media, and support groups from people who have been there as they can provide a wealth of advice and share resources that helped them through the same scenarios you may experience. Former foster children who are willing to share their stories and experiences can provide amazing insight into what your future foster child may be going through.  

Learn About Trauma 

Although choosing to foster a child is a beautiful thing, it also means that the child is likely coming to you on their worst day ever as they have been separated from everything and everyone that they know. Trauma is a part of the foster child’s experience and you need to be prepared to help them through it. Research methods for preventing further trauma and coping with existing trauma, and the right foster agency should provide resources and trainings to help you manage this as well.  

Learn About Your Foster Child 

While foster children share past trauma, every child is unique. Think in advance about how your foster child’s needs and experiences differ from those of your family. Plan ways to support the child’s unique behavioral needs, race, religion, and personality. Meet them where they are, rather than expecting them to change to what is comfortable for you. 

Research and Practice Parenting Skills 

Surprising or unexpected behavior is part of the foster parenting experience. Knowing and practicing methods of conflict resolution and positive parenting techniques can make you feel confident to handle them in a calm and supportive way. The behavior you are modeling will both teach your foster child how to manage conflicts and reassure them that someone is reliably in their corner. 

Prepare to Collaborate 

Successful foster parents understand well that they are one part of a team. When you bring a foster a child in your home, you may be working together with any or all of the below: 

  • Child’s natural family 
  • Teachers 
  • Social Workers  
  • Case Managers 
  • Court Officials 
  • Doctors 

Consider how you will communicate and collaborate with this network and prepare accordingly. When these parties work as a cohesive unit, it creates much needed consistency for a foster child who has experienced a very unsure past. 

Prepare to Make Time 

This may seem obvious but when you are adding a member to your family, you will need to open up time to be there for them. This is especially true for a foster child as they likely have not experienced stability. Being the face they can count on at everything from school pickup and sporting events or recitals to parent-teacher conferences and court dates creates trust and stability.   

It is also important to expect to have to rearrange plans to make time for the unexpected. Past experiences may come with big feelings and the need for frequent reassurance. You may have to work on the fly to be the listening ear, the warm hug, or the person who just sits quietly next to them.  

Consider how you will make time to be there. 

Prepare Space 

The perfect space will evolve as you get to know your foster child’s needs, but the following considerations are fairly universal: 

  • Generally clean/organized/decluttered home 
  • Dedicated space just for them to sleep, eat, play, do homework, destress 
  • Safe: The appropriate level of childproofing for their age/ ability/ behavioral needs 
  • Space and things that are just for them (don’t have to be shared) 

Prepare to Advocate 

Ready yourself to operate outside of your comfort zone. The challenges that foster children face can mean that people around them may judge their behaviors and attitudes. Your foster child needs to see you go to bat for them.  

Think through different scenarios and how you might handle them. Role play with your family. How will you support them with teachers, strangers, friends, relatives? Prepare to build the trust that your foster child needs by thinking through ways to support them no matter what they do, who you are with, or where you are. 

Prepare Your Support System 

Being on “an island” is never productive, especially when it comes to fostering a child. You and your foster child will need additional support. Plan for the following: 

  • Who will babysit or provide respite care when you are unable to be there? 
  • Who would your foster child stay with in the event of an emergency? 
  • If the child doesn’t feel they can talk to you, do they have an alternative? 
  • Who will you go to when you need to reflect on a hard day? 

When You Are Ready 

No parent of any kind is perfect. You will make mistakes and have hard days. But if you plan for the expected, embrace the unexpected, and reflect on each experience with an open mind, you can change a child’s future for the better. 

Ready to embrace the joys and challenges of fostering a child in your home? Contact us to set up an appointment with a member of our staff. We will inform you about our agency and answer any other questions you may have concerning fostering or the certification process. 

Join Us for a Free Information Session!

Saturday, August 17th - 10am – Noon