In order to grow as a foster parent, you have to think about developing your skills and competence in parenting a youth in care. You can enhance your skills through trainings related to where you want more support. This could include:
The foundation for your growth as a foster parent is understanding your specific role in your child’s life. Talk with your agency about what they believe your role is and how they can support you in this role. Understanding this better will help you feel confident when interacting with your child.
Build upon this confidence by asking your agency what tips they have for developing or improving your foster skills, and make sure to know your rights as a foster parent so you can continue having open conversations with your agency about your expectations and responsibilities.
The demands of parenting and foster parenting can change or cause strains on other aspects of your life, such as your personal relationships, finances, stress, time management, or personal routines. Not every foster family dynamic is the same, and demands for each family will look different.
If you are married or in a committed relationship, make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to parenting styles, and that you both appreciate your child’s differing relationships with each other.
If you have birth children and youth in care, understand that your birth children may have different reactions to your child in care becoming an addition to the family. Birth children may have difficulty with divided attention, feel a weakened sense of love, or loss of significance in your family. To combat these possible issues, you want to be open and honest with your birth children and children in care throughout this process. It is essential to have an open dialogue with them about what it means to be a foster family, why every child is important and loved, and how everyone can promote positive relationships with all family members. Despite this, many benefits can come out of children in care and birth children’s relationships. Benefits can include developing a new friendship or sibling bond, social-emotional growth, increased cultural awareness, and more.
A key concept to being a successful foster parent is to promote growth within your child’s many different relationships, including their relationships with you, your immediate and extended family, their biological family, and other supportive adults in their lives.
When it comes to supporting relationships with birth families, this area of foster parenting can often be complicated and demanding because of the many factors that play a role in this dynamic. When a child’s goal is reunification with their birth family, then the birth parents will play a massive role in the permanency planning process. Some ways you can support the reunification process are:
All these ways you can support your child’s relationship with their birth family may seem demanding or complicated because of your relationship with their birth family. However, as hard as some of these may be, it is important to keep them in mind and understand that you will be doing what is best for your child in care. If you are having difficulties supporting your child’s contact with their biological family, talk with your agency about how to problem-solve these issues and why you may have concerns.
Buehler, Cheryl & Rhodes, Kathryn & Orme, John & Cuddeback, Gary. (2006). The potential for successful family foster care: Conceptualizing competency domains for foster parents. Child welfare. 85. 523-58.
1, 2, 3, & 4. (2006). The Potential for Successful Family Foster Care: Conceptualizing Competency Domains for Foster Parents. Child Welfare, 85(3), 523–558. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/preparing_youth.pdf
Coakley, T.M., Cuddeback, G., Buehler, C., & Cox, M.E. (2006). Kinship foster parents’ perceptions of factors that promote or inhibit successful fostering. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 92-109.
Franck, K. (2001). The characteristics of kinship and nonkinship care children and their families of origin. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Tennessee.
Jacobvitz, D. (2002). Promoting resiliency in children and youth living in low-income families. Paper presented at the annual conference of the National Council on Family Relations, Houston, TX.