How to Become A Foster Parent


By Saba Murtaz

With so many factors, so many children, and all the paperwork, where do prospective foster parents start? It’s all too easy for sensationalized stories to discourage people from approaching the foster care system, but this only just makes the problem worse. In a country where so many children are waiting for loving homes, how can families find the right information to make informed decisions? The responsibility is very great  – when a family welcomes a new child into their home, they become the caregiver of their mental, emotional, and physical selves. With that in mind, read on for some useful information if you are thinking about fostering a child or would simply like to learn more about it.


Foster Care Across the Nation

The children who make their way into the foster care system are often the ones coming from the most vulnerable and at-risk home environments, and the nation’s child protective services are dedicated to making sure no one falls through the cracks. This includes making sure comprehensive services are available across the country on a consistent basis.

With the aftermath of scandals in the foster care sector, such as the ones involving Baby Peter or Victoria ClimbiĆ©, it is as important now as it ever has been to make sure a consistent level of service and protection applies to all children, no matter where they are from. But it’s no secret that different regions have different approaches when it comes to family life – a child growing up in New York will have a different situation than a child growing up in Africa. To make matters even more complicated, the effects of the global recession are still keenly felt in some regions more than others.


The Life Of A Foster Parent

With all of the struggles, issues, and scandals, there is still nothing like the payoff of making a difference in a child’s life – the transformative effects can be seen across the nation. Working in a foster care agency, professionals see lots of inspirational stories, for example, a parent fostering may report the improved grades of a teenager previously labelled a hopeless case, or a family fostering children may note how their toddler, once underweight and emotionally vacant, is now healthy and socializing normally with their peers.

While no one will claim foster parenting is easy, the effects one can have on a growing life are beyond monumental. This is particularly true in cases where, as is often the case with teenage girls, the foster children themselves are pregnant – the support of a loving family takes them through the process and allows the cycle of poverty and at-risk behavior to end.

Some parents take children for a short period of time, such as a few months, especially when a child needs to be removed from an emergency situation while preparing for a more long-term placement. Other families opt to be that long-term placement, guiding the child through their most formative years and giving them a chance at life they otherwise may never have received. Nothing can be more rewarding.

As a foster parent, you are responsible for everything a normal parent is, whether this is taking your child to see the pediatric audiologist or it is helping them with their homework!


How You Can Help

There are a number of ways that families, eager to learn more about what it means to become a foster parent, can begin to help. The first step is to begin informing oneself about the area you are living in – some families considering fostering prefer taking local children, so as to minimize the discomfort of re-adjustment, while others are willing to take children from anywhere, such as those in greatest need. That need often takes the form of fostering teens, as many potential foster parents are eager to overlook them in favor of younger children. Often seen as already ‘independent enough’, teens are the most at-risk category for bouncing between homes and not being able to form the crucial, stable connections that will lay the foundation for a successful adult life.

Another large area of need is for families who are able to take siblings into their home – after what often proves to be tragic circumstances, some children are forced through the additional trauma of being separated from loved ones and brought to homes where there are no familiar faces. This is why approaching professionals with a long record of experience and compassion is so necessary.

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