Some may think that to be a parent or foster parent, you must have some special powers or must have this uncanny ability to just know how to deal with all children in every situation.
However, this is the not the case. Foster parents are not required to have any “special powers.” To be a foster parent, you first need the love and desire to help children. The next thing needed to be a foster parent is the patience to work through the licensing process and persistence to work with the children to show them the love and stability they really need.
Becoming a licensed foster parent requires you to be the age of majority, complete a foster parent training class, agree to have your background checks done and fingerprints rolled, provide references, have a doctor sign a health form, pass a home visit inspection and a complete a home visit interview.
While these steps are not required when you become a parent, this process will seem minor compared to the huge impact you will make on a child’s life as you welcome them into your home and provide them with a safe place where they can just be a kid.
Foster parenting — just like being a parent to your own children — can have its ups and downs. There will be challenges along the way and every day may be a new learning experience. There will be some sleepless nights as you nurture and comfort a small child who is “scared of the dark” or a child who doesn’t understand a bedtime routine as they may have never had that in their parental home.
There will be times you have to adjust your home to meet the individual needs of a foster child as there is no universal standard or right way of parenting. All children are different and going through some trial and error may be the best way to figure out how to best help the foster child. There may be times where you think how can you possibility do this, but just as any parent whether biological or foster you will always find a way to work through the obstacles as long as you remain positive and understand that foster children have endured a lot in their short lives.
It will take time and patience to develop a bond with a foster child to help them work through their behaviors and trauma that causes them to act out or be scared to get close to you. As a foster parent, you will have to work with service providers and have monthly home visits, but just know that these people will be your support system through the rough times. They will make sure you are given the extra supports and trainings to allow you to be the best foster parent you can be so that the foster children are provided with all they need to get through the struggles.
There will also be those moments that make your heart melt and beam with pride. Those moments when you get to help a foster child accomplish something in their life whether big or small and see the exhilaration in their eyes. Those moments when you provide them with the love and comfort of a home where they get to have their very own bed and don’t have to worry about when their next meal may be. A foster parent is there to be the person that keeps them safe so they can focus on things such as learning to ride their bike or graduating high school.
The changes and transformations you may see in a foster child will make you realize that even though there were those challenges, it is all worth it when the foster child is able to do something that they might not ever been able to do and feeling proud of themselves.
When children are finally able to express their feelings and emotions in an effective way, then they will learn to cope with their past while growing and thriving in their future. Foster Parents are just ordinary parents who are willing to do extraordinary things to help a child in need. Your impact on a child’s life will enhance their lives as much as it will yours.
If you would like more information on how to become a foster parent, please call Building Blocks Foster Care at (800) 689-0945.
Beth Geer, a licensing specialist for Building Blocks Foster Care in Grand Island, has worked in child welfare for 10 years. “I’m a parent … what now?” is a monthly column from the Grand Island Association for Child Abuse Prevention, which represents many child-serving agencies in the community. If you need help dealing with parenting issues, call the Nebraska Family Helpline, “Any Problem. Any Time,” at (888) 866-8660.