By Carol Jones
A lot of families think about fostering. The need for foster homes is great here in Arkansas and around the country. It is important that prospective families think about a few things before filling out that application.
Some people have misconceptions about what being a foster parent entails. Some families have the idea that they will open their home to a child who has not had the opportunities other children have. Just love the child and the family will live happily ever after. But there is more to it than that. If you value your freedom and like to come and go at will, fostering might not be for you. Great plans for a fun Saturday might have to be delayed or cancelled because the foster child is having a hard day.
A foster child can be very time consuming. He comes to you with built-in problems. He is frightened because he may never have been safe in any home. Adults are not to be trusted. It may take months for him to feel safe with you.
All foster children come with problems and difficulties. Perhaps he has been abused or neglected. He may also have a developmental disability, a bad heart, speech problems, hearing problems or balance problems when he walks. Most foster children have emotional problems. After moving from home to home coming from an environment that was so bad that the State had to step in and have the child removed it makes sense.
The foster child might lie because he doesn’t trust you to take care of him. He might steal or break things to see if you will keep him after such behavior. These are “tests” to see how this new family responds to his behavior/to him. Families in the past may have had him moved for the same behaviors.
How are your nerves? Many foster children throw tantrums that let them blow off steam because of the stress of living in a stranger’s home. As a defense they push you away for fear that you will reject them as they have been rejected before. Even children who can’t explain rejection, know what it is and what it feels like.
Foster children may not be completely potty trained. Wetting the bed is common. Nighttime is particularly frightening, when the child may have nightmares and wake up screaming or vomiting.
When you get a foster child, you know you will eventually have to give him up. If you care for the child properly, you have to let yourself love him. Along with a place to sleep and food and clothing, all children need love.
Each time a child is brought to you the entire family must adjust. This means everyone has to sign on to support this child in every way possible. Every family member has to understand that foster children do not give much, they mostly take, especially at first.
With all of the challenges of fostering, being a foster parent also means doing something so rewarding, so vital, so important that there is no way to measure the progress you see as your foster child grows and improves and becomes as independent as he can be.