On the surface, being a foster parent may not sound all that difficult — a child is brought into your home for a short period of time while you care for them and provide them with a safe home. But foster care is much more than simply giving a child a place to live and food to eat. It’s providing them with a nurturing home, a loving environment, and a space where they can truly feel loved and cared for. Some children who enter the foster care system have very troubling backgrounds and family situations, making the adjustment even more difficult.

Because children’s lives are often suddenly disrupted and providing them with a safe and nurturing home is so critical, anyone who wants to be a foster care parent needs to go through some pre-service training. Foster care training is completed through the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work, but if you have any questions about what the training entails, get in touch with the staff at FCCY.

The training is an important step in preparing you to become a foster parent, but because there are countless unforeseen situations that may arise, there are many things that will simply require on the job training.

Here are a few things you should know that may not be covered in your training.

Be as Involved as Possible

If there are court hearings, doctor’s appointments, or family meetings, try your best to rearrange your schedule in order to attend any special meetings. It’s during these times that you will learn more about the intricacies of the process, and you’ll be able to show that you want to be and can stay involved in the foster child’s life. It can be difficult finding time and the means to attend all of the various events, but making an effort can go a long way in showing that you care.

Write Everything Down

Keep a detailed calendar of dates, times, and places for various events or meetings, as well as notes on how your child is behaving and any significant changes in behavior. Foster care parents work with a social worker who is involved in the case, but it’s not always possible to have someone available right when you need them. If there is any communication, consider emailing questions or concerns, or if you have a phone conversation, send a follow-up email so that there is a record of questions and responses.

Give Them Time

In some cases, a foster child is very much loved by their immediate family, but certain circumstances require that they are placed in foster care regardless. As a foster parent in this case, giving them a loving home is important, but it may not be exactly what they need. They also need to get to school on time, signed up for summer soccer, or to go see a movie, and sometimes it’s these things that can make the biggest difference in their lives at the time.

See the Bigger Picture

Part of the definition of foster care is that it is a short-term solution. During that time the social worker on the case may make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with, a judge may remove the child from foster care even when they are returning to an environment that is less than ideal, and there’s a high chance of the child saying or doing something that causes you emotional hurt. But overall, you are helping them during a very difficult time, even if it is just for a short month. Keep reminding yourself that you are helping, and that is the bigger picture.

You Are Not Alone

When it’s the middle of the night and your foster child won’t stop yelling at you, or when they won’t go to school in the morning and you can’t get a hold of your social worker, it may feel like you are alone. But remember that there are people who can help and that it’s OK asking for help. Family, friends, paid professionals, daycare staff, and therapists are all there to help, it’s just a matter of asking for it.

FCCY is Here to Help

If you have a desire to be a foster care parent, we are excited to help you make that happen! FCCY provides foster care services throughout Pennsylvania and we have been passionately helping children since 1994. Get in touch with us today to learn more about becoming a foster parent.