Congratulations, you have taken the first step in possibly shaping a child’s life by fostering by fostering! According to a June 2021 Legislative Foster Care Report from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), over 6,900 children are in West Virginia’s foster care system. If you are considering fostering a child, are learning about it for the first time, or know that this is the next step for you, we are here to guide you along the way. Continue reading to learn more about what to expect when fostering a child.
WHAT IS FOSTER CARE?
Foster care is a temporary service for children who cannot live with their families. These children may live with relatives (kinship caregivers), licensed foster parents, or in placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and so forth. The main hope is that they can reunite with their families once they can provide a stable home for their children.
Becoming a foster parent is a tremendous responsibility and will present challenges and changes in your routine lifestyle, but we promise in the end, it will all be worth it.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Most of the time, children in foster care have trauma. This trauma can result from many different scenarios, and potentially traumatic events may include:
- Abuse – physical, sexual, or emotional
- Effects of poverty – such as homelessness or not having enough to eat
- Separated from loved ones
- Witnessing harm to a loved one or pet – domestic or community violence
- Natural disasters or accidents
- Unpredictable parental behavior due to addiction or mental illness
Trauma may affect children’s brains, bodies, emotions, and behavior, causing various outcomes such as:
- Chronic illnesses
- Difficulties learning or concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty warming up to caregivers
- Trust issues
- Depression and anxiety
- Lack of control
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
Age, frequency, relationship, and coping skills all determine how significant the impact of a traumatic event on a child may be. Younger children are more vulnerable as they are developing at a fast pace. However, even children who are too young to speak or may not remember “memories” can still be affected well into adulthood.
AN EMOTIONAL YET REWARDING CHALLENGE
As a foster parent, it is your job to help your foster child feel valued and important. Children in foster care often struggle with some of the following issues:
- Guilt or blame for being removed from birth parents
- Wanting and missing their birth parents, even if they were abusive
- Feeling unwanted or unloved
- Feeling sad and helpless
- Mixed emotions towards foster care and families
- Feeling insecure and unsure of their future
Children may not always warm up to you right away, and that’s okay. Sometimes, they have not experienced a safe environment and may be resistant to you and your family. At first, foster children may also not feel safe in your home; this is normal due to other life experiences they may have encountered. Try to be considerate and understanding as they adapt to their new home.
It’s also essential to remember that everyone in your family, including yourself, will be affected. Make sure you prepare and talk to your kids (if you have any) and answer any questions they may have about the process. They will need to be prepared to share toys, possible clothing items, and most importantly, the attention they typically receive from you and your partner.
EXPECT MANY APPOINTMENTS
Your foster child may require attending different appointments that may last for prolonged amounts of time throughout the fostering process. There are often many court dates, meetings, visitations, and changes. It’s also important to note that the foster child may sometimes require therapy, other psychological appointments, or other healthcare appointments such as dental, vision, and yearly wellness checkups that may have been neglected over the years. You may be responsible for taking your foster child to these appointments, just as you would with your other children.
SUPPORT FROM BURLINGTON
As part of your fostering process, you will receive support from Burlington. We are happy to help and available to answer any questions you may have about the foster care process — may it be before, during, or even after. We will also provide individualized orientation, initial and ongoing training, supportive services from a treatment coordinator, monthly financial assistance to defray costs, access to respite care services, and other services as needed.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT FOSTERING A CHILD? CONTACT BURLINGTON TODAY
Since 1913, Burlington United Methodist Family Services, Inc. has dedicated itself to changing lives by providing hope and healing to those who are hurting. We entered the foster care ministry in 1985, and since then, it has grown into one of our most extensive programs. Our foster care team works closely with families and clients to make foster care life enjoyable. If you have any questions about foster care, becoming a foster parent, or any of our other services, please contact us at 304-260-5884 or email@example.com.
“For I know what I have planned for you,” says the Lord. “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11