Foster parents should be prepared for challenging behavior when they decide to open their home to vulnerable children. But once you’ve gone forward with the decision and you find yourself in a situation beyond your control, what do you do? Who can you turn to? What are your options? Here’s how you know when your placement has run its course.
How Do I Know When My Foster Care Placement Has Run Its Course? Learn More about Your Foster Child
When you’re feeling like your current placement might be more than you can handle, it’s important to step back, take a breather and identify exactly what aspect of your foster child’s behavior is making you feel that way. If there is a specific behavioral problem like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) that’s causing you and your family the most stress, learn more about the problem. A quick call to your FAFS Family Advocate can help ease your mind and set you on the right path. Additionally, a wealth of online sites and forums with topical information on behavioral problems in children, both from experts and parents just like you, are always just a few clicks away. They can be great sources of information for foster parents looking to manage problem behaviors.
If the source of stress between your family and your foster child is harder to identify, talk to your caseworker and try to learn more about your foster child’s history. Learning about what types of abuse or neglect your foster child faced can make it easier to identify where, when and how problem behaviors might arise. The more you know about your foster child, the better suited you’ll be to handle the challenges he presents.
How Do I Know When My Foster Care Placement Has Run Its Course? Learn More about Yourself
Before deciding that your foster child is more than you can handle, take a moment to think about why you decided to foster. If your decision involved helping vulnerable children keep in mind that the job will never be easy, nor will it ever be finished – that is precisely why it is so important.
Just like in any truly important job, there’s bound to be quite a bit of stress involved. Foster children can push anyone to feel bouts of anger, frustration and sadness – even those with expert coping mechanisms and strong support. It’s very normal and quite alright for any parent to feel this way. Remember that help is never too far away and that you are not alone.
Next, think about your strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve arrived at the crossroads where you’re considering ending the placement, it’s likely that your foster child is exploiting a weakness in your family. This could be your anger and frustration with his difficult behavior, for example, or your concern for the well being of your biological children. There’s no shame in recognizing that your foster child has hit you where it hurts the most. The only shame would be in missing the opportunity to increase your knowledge, build up your defenses and get better prepared for next time.
How Do I Know When My Foster Care Placement Has Run Its Course? Take a Hard Look at the Bottom Line
The bottom line of every family unit is to collectively make sure that all its members are healthy and happy. Removing someone from the family is an absolute last resort. But when your family or your foster child is unsafe, you’ve tried everything you can possibly think of and there’s no other way, protecting everyone’s health and happiness is paramount. Make sure you’ve marked everything on this checklist before contacting your caseworker regarding removing a placement:
- I have identified the problem behaviors that are causing my family the most harm and done everything I could to learn about new approaches to managing them from experts and other parents.
- I have put the approaches I learned about into practice for significant period of time.
- I have contacted my caseworker to learn more about my foster child and explore ways we could manage problem behaviors together.
- I talked to each member of my household individually and together to set a plan in place that can help mitigate the problem behaviors.
Removing a foster child from your home can be as difficult for your family as it can be for the foster child. However, if problem behaviors persist after you have followed the steps above and those behaviors jeopardize your family or your foster child’s physical or emotional well being, it may be time to seek an end to the current placement.