Good question right? Well, thankfully it’s very common for foster parents to have children of their own and with over 54 years of experience in the field as a fostering agency, HopeWell can help you think about some important lessons that answer this important question.
• Speak to them in age appropriate language. Talking to a toddler is very different than talking to a teen. For example, a young child may ask where the foster child’s mommy and daddy are and why they can’t live with them. Saying something like, “Their mommy and daddy are doing some classes so they can take good care of them and ___ will live with us for a little while until they are done,” can be helpful in explaining the situation. With older kids, you can be more direct, but be careful not to share too much information that would breach the foster child’s confidentiality.
• Assure them that you love them. It’s quite common, especially for young kids, to feel some anxiety about a new child coming into the home. They can worry that they will lose their place and subsequent attention from you. Let them know that they are special and will always be loved, no matter who comes into your home.
• Let your child know they can be a leader and demonstrate good behavior. Different families have different norms, whether fostering or not. A foster child may have experienced a late bedtime or no bedtime at all. They may swear. They could lie. It’s important to anticipate that their behavior may not be exactly what you are used to from your own child, and your child will notice. Let them know their example can be really helpful to a foster child.
• Be fair. Kids (and people in general) are concerned with fairness, especially at home. Fair doesn’t always mean everybody gets the exact same thing, but let your child know that you will have the same rules and chores for them and the foster child.
• Teach your child to take it slow. Kids will often be very excited at the prospect of having a foster child in the home, peppering them with questions and trying to involve them in everything they do. While earnest and cute, this can be overwhelming for a foster child so make sure they get their space and know that it can take time for a child to feel comfortable.
• Ask them if they have any concerns. The decision to become a foster parent is one that needs to be endorsed by everyone in the family, including your kid(s). Give your children a voice and allow them to share anything they may be worried about. Let them know their perspective is important and that you wouldn’t do anything that they are really opposed to.
Foster parenting is a journey and you can expect bumps along the way. However, many families who have opened their door to foster kids will tell you that it was the greatest decision they ever made, not just for them but for their own kids as well.
Fostering is one of the most fulfilling acts of kindness we can imagine. Opening your heart and your home can have a profound impact not only on the child who you welcome, but on you as well. That said, it’s also a significant decision that requires a lot of thought and consideration.