6 Foster Care Skills You Need to Master Before Being a Foster Parent

Basics to Being a Foster Parent

The following 6 statements describe the basic knowledge base of successful foster parents. Of course, there is more to being a foster parent, but these 6 points are a great place to start.

Foster Care Skill #1 - Know your home and family.

Before jumping into foster care, most families spend two or three years just thinking about it. Here are a few points to consider before making the final decision on whether or not to do foster care.

  • Perhaps you want to foster, but feel that this is just not the right time. There are several things you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for becoming foster parents later.

Foster Care Skill #2 - Know how to communicate.

You will be communicating with many different people as a foster parent. This list may include:

  • birth family
  • teachers and other school officials
  • therapists
  • social workers and other agency staff
  • judges and other court personnel, like a GAL or a CASA worker
  • other foster parents
  • your family and friends, who may just not understand your role as a foster parent.
  • the child

Foster Care Skill #3 - Know that working with foster children and the foster care system can be challenging.

The children in foster care have often endured extreme abuse and neglect. A child's way of communicating is often through behaviors. The foster care system is also often a new entity for many foster parents.

  • Consider the ages, gender, and behaviors of the children your home and family will best be suited for.
  • Know that challenges of working with a foster child also includes the challenges of working with a frustrated foster care system.
  • Consider how the first day with your foster child in your home will go and how you will establish your new role as a foster parent.

Foster Care Skill #4 - Know how to successfully manage behaviors of challenging children.

Due to the past abuse and neglect, corporal punishment is not allowed to be used on children in foster care. If the discipline method causes physical discomfort, it is not OK. For example: going without a meal, withholding bathroom breaks, push-ups, or standing in the corner on tip-toes.

  • Understand that to manage the child's behavior, it may be important to understand why child abuse occurs and the risk factors that play a part.
  • Remember that your job as a foster parent is to build an attachment with the foster child and physical discipline may destroy the bond that you are trying to create.
  • It's also important to maintain your cool as a foster parent. This can be tough as sometimes foster children push limits. It's important to do all we can to avoid being abusive toward the children during times of stress.

Foster Care Skill #5 - Know how to manage a child's losses as well as your own.

Many times a child's grief and loss (grieving the loss of their home and family as well as the past abuse) can trigger responses in foster parents.

  • Grief is very personal and each child will go through grief at his own pace. It's important to understand the grief and loss process in children so that we may be better able to meet their needs.
  • There are several factors that may influence a foster child's grief. The length or depth of the grief may be contributed to the type of trauma or even the child's developmental age.
  • Part of being a foster parent is helping a child grieve her losses in a healthy way.
  • Know that you may not be able to complete a foster care adoption of the child you are fostering. Most states will focus on placing a child with relatives first if the child is unable to return home to his birth parents. However, there are thousands of children who are legally-free and ready for adoption from foster care.

Foster Care Skill #6 - Know how to work with others.

As a foster parent, you will be working with many different professionals. This really goes along with communication, but there is more to being a good team member.

  • As a foster parent, you will be asked to attend meetings with a group of people. It's important to be prepared to participate. You have valuable insight into the child's needs and the group needs to hear what you have to say.
  • Many new foster parents are nervous about meeting the child's birth family,┬ábut in time you may find that you are fostering or mentoring the whole family. This is important because foster parents are a big part of the family reunification process.