Ten Steps to Exploring Foster Care
You might be wondering where to start now that you are thinking of pursuing foster care. It can feel overwhelming! I've compiled a list of the most important steps to help you in this journey.
Step 1: Start the conversation with your family and friends. Don't be surprised if you are met with some opposition or concern from a few. It's normal for them to be apprehensive about the risks. Give them some time to process this.
Step 2: Connect with other foster families and ask a lot of questions. The best advice we received was finding out what agencies were more favorable and supportive to foster/adoptive parents in our area. If you don’t know any current foster families you can ask to join an online foster care group to ask questions.
Step 3: Meet with multiple agencies. Are they organized? Do they communicate well with you? Do they offer support services? Ask if they would provide a reference so you can talk with someone who is currently fostering through them.
Step 4: Attend an info session for your top 2 or 3 agencies. You will learn a lot through this process and it may help narrow down who you choose, or put the breaks on things for a while. After we started attending info sessions we realized that we needed to take some time to use different discipline strategies with our kids. We knew this wouldn't happen overnight so we took about 6 months to implement those changes before attending another info session and moving forward.
Step 5: Start diving in to all the online foster care and adoption pages and support groups you can find. You'll learn so much there. Just search foster care or adoption on Facebook or Pinterest and you will be inundated with options. Make sure you also search for local pages and groups. Finding others nearby can be invaluable.
Step 6: Read "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis, P.h.D., David Cross, P.h.D., and Wendy Lyons Sunshine. Watch YouTube videos about TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention). This will be life changing! TBRI is a parenting approach specifically for children from hard places on attachment and child behavior. It helps you connect with the child in ways that help them feel safe, allowing for better regulation. Lastly, check out Empowered To Connect for extremely helpful parenting resources.
Step 7: Talk with family and friends, now that the initial shock has worn off, and find out who is willing to undergo a background check and provide substitute care for your kids. You will need a few different people willing to do this. If you're married start scheduling date nights once or twice a month. I can't tell you how important this is. If you’re single you especially need time away, start planning how you're going to do that routinely. Self-care is crucial to successful parenting.
Step 8: Once you begin training and licensing ask for a copy of your agency’s policies and procedures. Many times these are only briefly touched on in training, and they are so important. Take the time to read these. This is where you find out what you can and can't do as a foster parent, how to report a scraped knee, and if you need to keep a medication log, etc. It also includes rules such as keeping meds locked in a cabinet or toolbox, and storing guns and ammo in separate safes.
Step 9: Once training is completed, ask your agency to connect you to a mentor family or person. This should be someone who fosters/adopts through your agency, lives near you and has at least a year experience. After your first placement you are going to have so many new questions. Some questions must be geared toward your child's caseworker; however, most can be directed toward your mentor.
Step 10: It is so important that you utilize your support system -- case worker, licensing agent, agency support groups, online support groups/pages, substitute care, respite care and medical team. Ask questions, ask for a break when you need it, ask for an evaluation or services for your kids when you see behaviors that concern you or you don't know how to handle. Many make the mistake of trying to do it all on their own, and this just leads to burnout. Don't be afraid to speak up.