Mike and I practically stumbled into foster care. Long story short, a friend of ours needed help, and to step in, we had to become licensed foster parents. We had no idea what we were getting into. We just blindly moved forward. Still, if I could go back and make the decision differently, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. We did what was right in the moment, and it has forever changed our lives for the better.
If I could tell someone else who is considering this journey what to do first, here is what I would say:
- Get educated. Ask around and find other families who are already fostering. Research online. Find the resources you will need in the future. Begin calling local agencies and ask a ton of questions. You may decide that you feel more supported by a private agency, or you may really feel called to work with a state-run agency.
- Gather resources for your home. Keep an extra car seat, a portable bed, diapers, toothbrushes, and clothing in various sizes.
- Ask for the Lord’s guidance as you take each step. As people of faith, I can’t stress this enough. For us, this is the key to all things we do in life, especially things that impact the life of a child the way foster care does.
- Don’t be afraid to pause during the process. Foster care can feel like a whirlwind. It’s okay to take a break during the licensing process and regroup.
- Talk to your children and your extended family. The final decision is up to you, but it is good to be up-front with your family as you move forward. Your children need to know that they are a part of everything you do as a family. They can be encouraged to meet other foster families. They need to know it’s okay to ask any question during the process of getting licensed or when you begin taking placements. Use age-appropriate language. Identify a few safe people for your children to talk to. Our children know they can talk to Mom, Dad, or Grandma. (If they just want to share feelings, they include the dog Lucy because she is always comforting.) Safe people know accurate information about fostering, and they know your own family.
- Remember the goal of foster care. The goal of foster care is always reunification. Your job as a foster parent is to care for the child until the child returns home or to an appropriate relative placement. Your job as a foster family is to support the biological family and the child. Of course, it isn’t always possible for a child to return home—this is where adoption comes in. But foster care is primarily for the well-being of the biological family.
Remember. You won’t be able to prepare for every twist and turn that is surely part of the journey. Caring for children through foster care takes a healthy mixture of love, compassion, patience, and understanding.