Should I become a foster parent (A self-assessment)
Foster parenting is not for everyone. But it might be for you.
Use the following 8 questions to find out. If you answer yes to all of them, then you’re probably an ideal candidate.
Will you submit to (and pass) a background check?
One of the very first pieces of paperwork that you will encounter is a background check. This will authorize the licensing agency (either a charity like Skookum Kids or the State of Washington itself) to look at your criminal history. If you don’t have any criminal history, perfect. You’re done here.
If you do, this part might take a little longer. A misspent youth doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from becoming a foster parent, but there will be some extra work to verify that you’ve learned and moved on from your life of crime.
And if you’ve lived outside the State of Washington anytime in the last 5 years, there’s an additional step here—fingerprints. It doesn’t rule you out, but it will take a couple extra weeks.
Are you willing to do all of the preparation/training?
Foster parenting is hard in some unexpected ways, so we spend a lot of time in preparation and training.
Specifically, new foster parents attend an 8-session class called Caregiver Core Training (CCT for short) usually offered on weekday evenings. This class covers everything from an overview of the legal proceedings in foster care to some specific skills for managing challenging behavior. Skookum Kids offers CCT classes 6 times a year, so there’s probably one right around the corner.
In addition to CCT, your licensing agency will conduct a series of interviews with you to get a better sense of what types of children will be a good match in your home. These interviews aren’t particularly casual. Expect an in-depth discussion of your personal history and parenting style.
Are you and your partner unified in your desire to become foster parents?
In most parenting teams, there is an enthusiasm gap. One spouse is stoked about the notion of foster care. The other is tolerant of it. That’s fine. But the tolerant one needs to be vocal about their concerns, and the stoked one needs to hear them. If one spouse is being drug along and doesn’t feel free to object, resentment is bound to develop. You need to be in it together.
So talk about it frankly. See and acknowledge the enthusiasm gap, and make a plan to check-in regularly to understand how each spouse’s perspective might have shifted over time. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.
Are you willing to learn and practice new methods of parenting?
For many people, this is the hardest one.
The parenting methods that worked on your own kids might backfire with children who have experienced trauma. You will need some new skills. Are you willing to learn them? Are you willing to try different things until you find the approach that works for each child you welcome into your home?
Do you have room in your house for a(nother) child?
You don’t need a private bedroom for every child. Bunkbeds are just fine for kids old enough to navigate up and down the ladder by themselves. But you do need seperate bedrooms for the different gendered kids in your home once they reach a certain age.
Are you willing to follow rules that you don’t like?
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of weird, quirky, strange, borderline-bizzare rules that apply to foster parents. Most of them are rooted in good intentions, but they apply so broadly that they might not make sense in your particular context. The trouble is: they don’t actually need to make sense. They’re the rules, so we have to follow them. Can you be okay with that?
Do you have room in your schedule for a(nother) child?
Kids don’t just take up a bedroom. They take up a tremendous amount of space on your schedule. Do you have room for school pickups and dropoffs? For counseling appointments? For making a lunch before school and reading before bed? Can you make time to talk a child down from a tantrum?
Are you willing to collaborate with social workers, therapists, teachers, and more?
Inviting a foster child into your home means that you’re also inviting a whole bunch of other people into your life. Most obviously, the child’s social worker will become a part of your life to one degree or another, but the child will also likely have a therapist and maybe an attorney who will want to consult with you. You’re joining a big team of people who are all committed to the child’s success. Can you participate with them?
If you answered yes to all of the above, the answer is yes! You should become a foster parent. Visit skookumkids.org/fostercare and schedule a time to meet with one of our foster care specialists to get started.
If you’re not sure about one or more of the above, we love helping people think it through. Foster care isn’t for everyone, and we’d love to help you decide if it’s right for you. Just drop us a line (/contact) and we’ll connect over coffee.