5 Questions to Consider Before Becoming a Foster Parent

Everyone needs a “foster parent friend” — someone you can go to if you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent. I’m that friend (or friend-of-a-friend) for many people, which means I have a lot of conversations with people who are thinking of becoming foster parents. Each time I do, I find myself coming back to these five questions. They are *so* important. If you are considering becoming a foster parent, I encourage you to think through these questions before you take the next step:

1. Am I hoping to adopt?

2. How do I plan to support reunification?

3. How prepared am I to foster a child transracially?

4. What supports do I have in place?

5. How will becoming a foster parent affect everyone in my household?

In this video, I unpack each of these questions a little bit in an effort to help folks think carefully about who, when, how, and whether to foster.

Just tonight, I spent an hour on the phone with a couple who just got licensed a week ago and have already fielded two calls for “medically fragile infants.” They both work full-time and wanted to discuss the realities of fostering someone who might need more from them than they can give in this current season.

We talked about the challenges and blessings of fostering children in all stages of childhood, and what that looks like when you’re also juggling full-time employment. We also discussed specifics about fostering a baby in withdrawal, and I referred them to my online resource, “Foster Parenting Babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” something I created in partnership with Monica Simmons, PICU Nurse and co-founder of Premier Baby Planners. (This resource is part of The Flourishing Foster Parent and is available here.) I tried to be as honest and straightforward as I could; I don’t think it helps anyone to go into foster parenting ignorant of the unique challenges they will face.

I offered my best insights, and after our conversation, I got a text: “Talking to you, getting the honest lowdown is exactly what we wanted and needed and more helpful than anyone we’ve talked to so far. THANK YOU!!”

That’s what I’m here for, and it’s what I aim to do with every resource I created and every coaching call I host.

I offer a lot of free content here and on my YouTube channel, because I want to help others who are on this foster parenting journey. That said, I also want to be available to those who need to get on the phone with “a foster parent friend.” If you would like to go deeper and schedule a one-on-one coaching call with me, you can do that here.

No one should feel like they’re going at it alone.

How Fun Helps Build Resilience in Your Foster Child

While we cannot spare our foster children from all of the trauma of being in foster care, one of the best things foster parents can do is cultivate a home life aimed at helping build resilience in their foster children. In this and the other two videos in this series, I am offering three things you can do every day, beginning on day one of a new placement, to do just that. (Click here for Part One: Routines and here for Part Two: Communication if you missed the first two videos in the series!)

In this latest video, I am sharing about the vital role fun can play in helping children develop a sense of stability, security, and safety as they adjust to being in a new place (your home).

Remember, there is a world of difference between “Go play!” and “Let’s play!”

Playing with an infant or toddler can be as simple as an endless game of Peek-a-boo or “This little piggy went to market…” Preschool and early elementary school-aged kids love board games like Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, Uno, Go Fish, and Outfoxed. Likewise, they love when, rather than sitting on a park bench and watching them play, you join them on the playground. For older kids, some of our favorite board games include Monopoly Deal (which, unlike Monopoly, can be played in under fifteen minutes), Sequence, and Clue. And Hide-and-Seek never gets old, no matter your age!

One vital key to “healing play” is that your attention be undivided and entirely on your kids. No cell phones, no checking social media, no chatting with other adults in the room while “playing” with the child. Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes or so, the child must have your full attention.

Another key is to let the child take the lead in what you play. Remember, children often feel like adults are making all the decisions for them. But children have a natural desire to experience agency and to feel empowered! Letting them choose the game you play is a great way to, in the words of my parenting coach Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, “give them a hit of power.”

Believe me when I tell you: that “hit of power” goes a long way!

Again, we foster parents cannot do anything about the circumstances that have brought a child into foster care and into our home. However, there is so much we can do to help them develop resilience and begin their healing journey, and I believe it mostly boils down to maintaining routines, being intentional about communicating with them, and going out of our way to have fun with them on a daily basis.