Don’t Let Foster Parent Fears Scare You Away!
Foster parenting is not for the faint of heart. Dealing with the child welfare system, birth parents and the sometimes challenging behaviors of foster children can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of uncertainty – many “what ifs” – when you’re a foster parent. Here are some of the most common foster parent fears and how to cope with them:
What If My Foster Child Or Her Birth Parents Say I Did Something Wrong?
This is one of the fears that a foster parent may not have considered. Foster parents can be blindsided by allegations of bad behavior (hitting, inappropriate touching, incompetence). These allegations are sometimes made by the public, caseworkers, birth parents, and other times, by foster children themselves.
It’s important for foster parents to understand that, when an allegation is made, it must – and will – be taken seriously. This is for the protection of the children, who have already been abused or neglected. Allegations lead to investigations, and it is important to understand your rights, as well as legal procedures, including the appeals process.
Foster parents who are falsely accused of wrongdoing often feel angry or hurt. This is natural, and it is important to know where to turn with those feelings. There are free foster parent training courses that deal with both the legal and emotional implications of allegations investigations that can help.
What If I Get Too Attached To My Foster Child?
This is one of the most common foster parent fears. In fact, it’s such a big one that it makes many people choose not to become foster parents. They fear the pain of letting go, and they are certain they couldn’t bear to love a child so much knowing that he could leave at any time.
Many foster parents experience profound grief when their foster children leave their home. It takes time to recover from the loss. But it’s important that you do, not only for yourself and your family, but also for all the other children in foster care who need safe and loving homes.
One of the best ways to try to prepare yourself for the loss is to connect with other foster parents, whether in person or online. They will be there for you with good advice and a sympathetic ear to help you move forward.
What If My Foster Child Goes Back Home And Her Bio Parents Don’t Take Good Care Of Her?
Foster parents often grow deeply attached to their foster children. They love and care for them as if they were their own, all the while knowing that the goal is reunification.
When a child goes home to the birth parents who made mistakes that caused her to be placed into foster care, loving foster parents may have many fears about the child’s future. They may think, “What if bio mom goes back on drugs?” or “What if bio dad gets angry and takes it out on the child?” Even if they truly believe the bio parents have made real progress and are on the right path, foster parents may still feel that they could offer the child a “better” life.
If you truly have concerns about your foster child’s safety if she’s returned home, you should make those concerns known to her caseworker. But, as a foster parent, you must never forget that you are meant to be a meaningful, but temporary, haven for a child in need.
One of the best ways you can help your foster child while she’s in your home, and even after she leaves, is to always serve as a good, compassionate role model to both her and her birth parents. When possible, building a strong relationship with your foster child’s birth parents may allow you to stay in touch with the child and continue to be a part of her life. Even if you do not stay in touch, the good parenting skills you modeled for the birth parents may serve them and the child well as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.
What If My Foster Child Forgets Me?
One way to give your foster child something to remember about her time in your home is to make a Life Book for her. A Life Book has pictures of the child, pictures of her birth parents and photos of you, your family, your pets, etc. A Life Book is important in helping your foster child establish her identity and remember all the people who care about her, no matter where her life takes her.
Of all the foster parent fears you may have, this one is the most unfounded. Your foster child came to you at a time in her life when she needed stability, safety and support. You took care of her, and whether or not she could express it, she probably appreciated what you did for her, even if she only expressed anger, or was too young to tell you, while she was in your home.
Every foster parent has fears, but with a good support system and the knowledge that you’re making a difference, you can put aside the “what ifs” and concentrate on “what is” – a child in your home who needs you to keep her safe and sound.
What are your foster parent fears? Comment and let us know.