How to Be the Best First-Time Foster Parent – Part One
Although it’s an immensely rewarding experience, fostering doesn’t come without its challenges. The many families and individuals who have walked the path before you won’t say that it’s easy — but, they will say that it’s worth it. If you’re considering answering the call to foster, we’re here to encourage you along that journey, with a reminder that YOU are capable of being the best foster parent you can be!
According to SpeakUpNow.org, around 1% of children suffered from abuse or neglect at the hands of their biological families in 2017.
At first glance, 1% seems small. But, until it falls to zero, we at Wellroot have work to do.
Becoming a foster parent is a noble and courageous step taken by many families and individuals in the effort to lower that number by providing safe and loving homes to children and teenagers who deserve it most.
While the foster system is far from perfect, there are extensive resources and support opportunities for those who decide to say “yes” to foster. Keep reading to discover how you can be the best foster parent you can be, and how you can change the course of a child or teenager’s life for the better.
How the System Works
To be a great foster parent, it’s important to understand how the system works.
When a home is deemed unsafe, a child services representative will remove the children in the home from the situation.
The children are then placed them into a temporary home — a foster home. In most cases, the ultimate goal of foster care is reunification with the children’s biological families, with the aim to always keep sibling groups together. This is why it’s important for foster homes to be willing to take more than one child at a time.
It’s the law that reunification is the primary goal of foster care and that measures are taken to fix the underlying problem that caused the removal of the children in the first place. If reunification is deemed not appropriate, the possibility of adoption may be discussed after an exhaustive search for biological family.
It’s important to approach the fostering process with an open mind, open hands, and an open heart. With reunification as the ultimate goal, situations easily result in an outcome that wasn’t originally expected at the start of a placement.
“Fostering is a broken but beautiful process. Ultimately, the Lord knows what is going to happen in the lives of these children,” said Wellroot Foster Parent Kelsie Cross. “But, it’s your job to advocate for their best interest while God’s plan is coming to fruition.”
Aging Out of Foster Care
Children and teens are allowed to remain in foster care until they are 21 years old. They can make the decision to leave their foster home and live on their own when they turn 18. This is known as “aging out” of the foster care system, and it is not the desired outcome.
To combat these discouraging numbers, foster families must be open to fostering older youth.
After decades connecting children to families, we understand it can be intimidating to think about fostering a teenager. Individuals who seize this unique opportunity, however, are presented with the chance to help a young adult learn invaluable life skills which circumstance has caused them to miss. Fostering an older child is a chance to instill better decision making and personal values that can ultimately redirect the course of his or her life, before it’s too late.
“You can’t change a teenager, but you can help them adjust and make better decisions on their own,” said Wellroot Foster Parent Shane Warawa, who fostered a 13 year-old boy named Andy in 2018, alongside his wife Jennifer.
“Andy had love in his house before, but there wasn’t a lot of support. He needed an opportunity to see the possibilities of what his life could be. When he starts to see what’s possible, then he’ll start to wonder what other great things he can accomplish,” said Jennifer. “It’s not meant to be easy, but every time we see Andy make a positive decision on his own, it’s rewarding.”
Click here to check out Part Two of the “How to Be the Best First-Time Foster Parent” series. If you’re in the Georgia area and you think you have what it takes, get more information about our programs. The system needs people like you.