Fostering brings with it many joys, but also many challenges. One should only decide to foster after much careful consideration, so here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering foster care.
The approval process can be long-drawn – so patience is required
Since fostering is a heavy responsibility, the Ministry of Social & Family Development (MSF) has in place a stringent process to ensure your eligibility for the role. Be ready to spend time answering personal questions, filling up paperwork and preparing your home for foster children. This process takes a few months and is a necessary step in this rewarding journey.
Your relatives or friends may doubt and question your decision – so be ready with answers
As you pursue fostering, you may find that not everyone around you supports or even understands your decisions. They may have preconceived ideas about fostering that may include stereotypes and prejudices that are not helpful, or they may have concerns about your capacity to handle foster children. Be prepared for questions, and see it as a good opportunity to educate them about fostering. Sometimes, the best way to explain to them is ultimately through your actions.
Your marriage will be tested – so it has to be strong
When a couple adds the responsibility of caring for a new foster child to an already packed schedule, the potential for conflict greatly increases – due to the increased number of decisions needing to be made, and responsibilities to be carried out and agreed upon by both spouses. It is therefore important for both of you to keep the communication lines open, and be willing to support each other even through the toughest of times. With the strength of a marriage cemented by a commitment to one another, parenting will prove to be more enjoyable and effective.
The parenting will be challenging – so equip yourself
In addition to all the usual challenges of parenting, fostering adds another layer of issues that will require special attention. Often, children will come with prior trauma or painful experiences which they are not able to express through words, but through outward behaviors like persistent crying or temper tantrums. Equipping yourself with knowledge and skills on handling trauma in children and the possible challenges will better prepare you for the foster child.
Saying “goodbye” is necessary and it won’t be easy – so be mentally prepared
There will come a time where the child will leave your home, hopefully to return to his birth family. After building a close bond with a child you looked after and cared so much for, saying goodbye will be extremely tough. No amount of preparation will make you fully ready for this departure, but it would make it slightly easier. Ultimately, you would be able to take heart in the knowledge that you made a lasting difference in a child’s life.
The pointers given above are not meant to deter you from fostering, but to paint a realistic picture of what to expect. You can never be fully prepared to foster, but taking steps to get yourself – and your family – ready will be crucial as you embark on this brand new journey.