When a child is placed in foster care, a social worker is assigned to that foster child. The social worker’s job is to help ensure the child is safe. The social worker also works with the biological family toward the goal of safely reunifying the family and child. And the social worker knows what to expect when fostering a child.
Social workers have the unique perspective of visiting the foster family’s home to speak to the foster family and child, while also meeting and working with the biological family of the child. With this perspective, most foster care social workers wish new foster parents would know these 4 things.
Expect the unexpected.
The foster care system is a living and breathing entity. Even though the system is directed by laws, policies, and procedures, it’s both people-focused and people-driven. Because of that, change is constant in foster care, and that change many times causes the unexpected to happen.
Realize what you “look through.”
New foster parents many times utilize their own life experiences and emotions to view biological parents. This then leads to disappointment or even anger. “Why don’t the parents try harder?” is a common question new foster parents ask. Don’t view or judge the parents in comparison to yourself. View them through their life experiences and emotions.
You will have to parent differently sometimes.
Yes, you should treat the child as you would your biological child when it comes to normal day to day parenting. There are, however, many differences in how you will be parenting. You will now have to report injuries to someone, use different doctors or dentists than you are used to, have people come into your home to visit the foster child, and let people know where you and the child will be if you go anywhere overnight. You will also parent in a trauma informed way which will most likely be very different than how you parent your biological children.
You need to have a support system ready.
Would you have a stranger drive your biological son or daughter to the doctor or dentist? If not, make sure you have supports ready before you have a child placed with you. Foster children can have many different appointments so having friends and family members ready to help will go a long way in making sure you don’t become overwhelmed. It’s also helpful to have dinners dropped off or frozen meals ready to go in your freezer. The time you would have spent preparing the food can now be spent connecting with the child. This is especially helpful the first week.
Are you a foster parent or social worker? What else do you think new foster families should be told?