The impact being a foster family will have on your kids will be a bit of a mystery until you are actually a foster family living it. I wish I had a crystal ball for you but I can share my own family's experiences so you might imagine the reality of being a foster family and how fostering will impact your kids. Each foster child will be unique and your kids will react differently to each child. Your children will bond with some, favor one over another, argue with one or two, and mourn deeply when certain kids leave. Truth be told, it is more about you and how fostering may affect your kids because of you.
How you as a foster parent navigate your way through fostering will greatly determine what being a foster family will look like in your home.
When I started my fostering journey my biological kids were 5, 7, and 10 and I'll admit I was a bit nervous about what their lives would be like going forward. Was I doing the right thing for them? Was I being selfish in my desire to be a foster parent? Would I be asking too much of 3 young children? I didn't know how their lives would be impacted by growing up in a home with foster kids. My kids were well adjusted, active, busy little kids. I could have never imagined what was in store for my kids.
Being a foster family provided my children with life lessons and experiences they never would have had if not for fostering.
They were exposed to some amazing things over the years and still talk about their memories today. My kids are adults now. It seems like yesterday that I went through the process to become a foster parent. We find joy as a family remembering certain kids and how each one affected our family dynamics. We share so many memories and we often wonder where some of the kids might be today. We are blessed to have relationships with some kids and their biological mothers or adoptive parents, and we keep in touch via social media with others. We have such great memories.
My girls argued over who actually taught two very delayed babies how to crawl then walk. (I was never considered as an option to that question!) The older one insisted it was her, however, I had to secretly agree with my younger daughter that it was indeed her persistence that got the babies walking. My son taught a 7-year-old girl how to run. She spent so much time standing in a playpen on her toes then sitting in an apartment not allowed to go outside, that she had no idea how to run. My son also created his own baseball team with a sibling group of 3 brothers and my older daughter loved to help with African American hair. She developed quite a talent for it!
The key was an agreement that I made to myself before I got a foster care license.
Like most foster parents, I could write a novel about what life was like for my kids growing up in a foster family. The key to our family was an agreement that I made with myself before I even qualified to get a foster care license. I would stop fostering when I believed that is was at the expense of one or all of my children. I stayed true to that and retired when my kids were teens. All three were very active in extracurricular activities and sports and having 2-3 siblings in tow everywhere we went was taking a toll on all of us. Our family dynamics were not what any of us wanted anymore and that was okay.
Trust your children as kids come and go. They will tell you through words and actions how they feel about being a foster family.
Trust that your kids will tell you when they have had enough. They will express if they want you to accept another placement or when they need a break after a child they loved leaves. They will share with you when they feel proud and when they feel torn. There will be favorite kids and favorite sayings that will be talked about for years. There will be memories of their least favorite and the one they struggled to like. For the most part, your kids will greatly appreciate the experiences foster care affords them by focusing on the positives.
After 7 years and 20+ foster kids, it was time to stop.
My kids were moving on and their interests were changing. I felt like as a mom my life was extremely full parenting 3 teens of my own. After honest discussions, we agreed it was time and we all felt at peace with our decision. We were grateful for the opportunities to love kids and help them learn and feel safe. We were happy that we presented foster care to our community in a light that they had not known before. Was fostering all butterflies and rainbows? Of course not. Was it worth it and would I recommend it to others? Absolutely!
Your children learn valuable life lessons that most kids will never have the opportunity to learn. They love in new ways, are more compassionate, think of others first, and so much more. You will rarely meet a foster parent that says fostering was not a good experience for their own kids. In fact, you will rarely meet a foster parent that wishes they had never fostered.
Many kids who grow up in a family that provides foster care will choose to be teachers, social workers, or start a non-profit to benefit foster kids. Some will become foster parents themselves. CCR has many foster parents that grew up in a home with foster kids or have kids of their own at home now while fostering. Please talk to foster parents. We are happy to put you in touch with our foster parents so you can get honest answers from someone actually doing the work.
One important thing to remember.
Being a foster parent can be for as long or as short as you want it to be. CCR asks all new foster parents for a 2-year commitment but after that, it is up to you. Don't be intimidated by families that choose to foster for 20+ years. You may choose to foster a couple of kids and never do it again and that would be okay. Each foster family is different and you will know what is best for you and your family.
Talk with foster parents, ask questions and get answers about foster care. Community Care Resources is a great resource. They will talk openly and honestly with you about fostering. I suspect that you will hear some wonderfully honest stories that will help you in making your decision to become a foster parent.
Be realistic, try to have minimal expectations and accept that there will be good, bad, beautiful and ugly experiences. What you focus on will most likely determine where your children place their focus.
The staff and foster families at CCR are happy to speak with you. Call anytime. 800-799-0450