Under the Umbrella: 7 Tips for Success as a Foster Parent

iStock_000065618451_Small.jpgFoster Parents muster a myriad of skills to care for the children in their home and ensure their journey through the foster care system is as smooth as possible. Below are 7 key skills the most successful foster parents employ on a daily basis.
  1. Patience: You may have heard the adage that “patience is a virtue;” well, for foster parents, patience is a way of life. As a foster parent, you will have many moments where your patience is tested. You will have to be patient during licensing, waiting for placements, court processes, and you will no doubt have your patience tested by the children who enter your home. Staying grounded in the mission to see a child through to permanence will help you cope during particular trying times.

    Check out this tip sheet if you are reaching your boiling point.

  2. Communication: Being a good communicator is vital to being a good foster parent. When you take placement of a child, you will have to communicate a lot of information to child’s worker, the treatment team, and even in court. However, what makes a great communicator is not just the ability to relay information to interested parties, it’s the ability to ask questions, seek assistance, and communicate your own needs.
  3. Understanding Trauma: Trauma and loss are cornerstones of foster care. The children who enter foster care experience trauma through abuse or neglect, and a series of losses they endure by being placed outside of their homes and biological families. Good foster parents understand the role that trauma is playing in the lives and behaviors of the children in their home. However, the best foster parents understand how trauma impacts their lives and the lives of their family members. Parenting a child with a history of trauma is in itself a traumatic experience for many foster parents and foster parents should be mindful of things like vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue that can lead to burn out.

    For more tips on trauma in children check out this tip sheet.

  4. Team Work: When it comes to caring for a child in foster care, there are many members of that child’s team. These team members often include birth family, social workers, therapists, and doctors, not to mention lawyers and judges. Although sometimes it may feel that some members of the team have competing interests, foster parents are most successful when they find meaningful ways to work with the team to meet the needs of the children in care. Mastering the above skills of patience and communication will help you work as a member of the team to shepherd a foster child to permanence, no matter what that looks like.

    For more tips on team work check out this tip sheet.

  5. Support Network: The journey of being a foster parent is not one you have to take on your own. Successful foster parents take the time to identify the people in their lives that can provide support throughout the process. This can include partners, neighbors, and friends, but it also can include other foster parents and even the child’s birth family.
  6. Self-Care: When you are caring for other people, particularly children, it is often easy to forget to care for yourself. Successful foster parents are dedicated and hardworking, but they also know that, to be most effective, they need take time for themselves. For ideas on how to take care of yourself please check out this tip sheet.
  7. The Ability to Let Go: It was mentioned earlier that loss is a cornerstone of the foster care experience. This is true for the children and birth families, but is also certainly true for foster parents, too. The primary goal for foster care is to reunify children with their birth families and, in Wisconsin, 60-70% of children who enter care are eventually reunified with their birth families. It’s important to understand this and keep this mind, and prepare yourself for losing a child that you have come to love and care for. Successful foster parents understand that, when a child reaches permanence, either through reunification or through adoption or guardianship, it’s a wonderful outcome for children worth celebrating.
    For more tips on reunification check out this tip sheet.
Please remember that the staff and Resource Specialists at the Coalition are always here for you, whether you need additional information and resources, support services, or just someone to talk to. You can email us at info@coalitionforcyf.org or give us a call at 414-475-1246 or 800-762-8063.
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