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What to Expect During Your First Year as a Foster Parent

The thought of welcoming a foster child into your home may conjure up many different feelings—it could stir up excitement, nerves, hopefulness, uncertainty, and plenty of other emotions all at once. And while you can prepare for the change coming to your home by reading other parents’ experiences or examining helpful resources, nothing can show you just how it will be like the experience itself.

But that’s not to say preparation isn’t helpful. While there is no formula or universal experience to foster parenting, first-time parents can and should engage with stories from other foster parents and receive knowledgeable advice from those who know what it’s like to welcome a child into the home for the first time.

If you’re preparing to become a foster parent for the first time, let us first say congratulations and thank you! You are pursuing a loving, selfless, rewarding journey. Let’s also help ease any stress by offering a few pieces of advice about what you can expect as a first-time foster parent:

1. Expect to Pivot

Just like welcoming a new baby into the world changes your entire routine, so does welcoming a child of any age into your home. Sharing your life and living space with a child can force you to adapt to new routines, patterns, communication styles, and more. Plus, every child is different, and you won’t know the best way to care for your foster child until you meet and get to know them.

It’s often said that the only thing you can be sure of when it comes to parenting, including foster parenting, is that you will face some uncertainty. That’s okay! Let go of expectations and embrace the pivot whenever you need to.

2. Create a Support System That You Can Turn To—It Can Make All the Difference

When you pursue foster parenting, it’s a good idea to begin forming a team of people you can turn to for guidance, help, and support. From close friends and family members to fellow foster parents, you can build a support system with team members who are in your corner and there to help.

Whether you’re already a parent or not, you will want help and guidance from time to time as you care for your foster child. Opening your doors to a foster child means opening your doors to someone who:

  • Has been pulled from a difficult situation and needs safe, stable housing and parental care
  • Has a past you don’t know much about
  • Has a collection of pain and trauma that children aren’t usually equipped to cope with

As a result, foster parenting can present you with certain challenges that can be difficult to work through. But by establishing a team of people you know you can turn to and receive valuable help from whenever you need it, you will be better equipped to get through the difficult moments and move forward together with your foster child.

There are several foster support groups available—Generational Child Care can connect you with groups and individuals who may be available to join your parenting support circle.

3. Training Is Key

To become a foster parent, you must undergo trainings that teach you the ins and outs of becoming a foster parent and welcoming a foster child into your home. There are training requirements for foster parents, but it’s wise to go beyond what’s required and attend as many ongoing or additional trainings as possible to learn as much as possible. The more you know, the better prepared you can be to address particular scenarios or help a child work through whatever they may be facing.

Trainings can cover:

  • Becoming trauma-informed
  • Parenting for various ages (infants, young children, older children, and teens)
  • Working with birth parents, case workers, and other crucial figures
  • Understanding patterns of behavior or mental health issues
  • Maintaining positive relationships with your foster child
  • Financial advice and budgeting tips

And so many more topics. While you will undergo required trainings, take advantage of other learning opportunities whenever you can attend or participate.

4. Strengthen What You Know About Trauma and How to Help a Child Work Through It

This point is tied to the training tip above, but becoming trauma-informed and strengthening your expertise in coping with trauma is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your foster child.

You know that your foster child is not coming to you because they want to or feel like it. A child placed in your home is coming to you because there is serious trouble at home. Even just separating a child from their parents and placing them with a stranger is traumatizing enough. Add to that the episodes or events the child has likely witnessed or lived through before CPS got involved, and you may easily have a child with a lot to process and very few healthy coping skills.

It’s not unusual to welcome a child whose difficult past has helped inform negative behaviors, such as:

  • Throwing tantrums
  • Displaying outbursts
  • Rebelling against rules or authority
  • Exhibiting mental or emotional instability

Knowing how trauma alters a child’s mental and emotional intelligence and how it can manifest will help you address certain behaviors, care for your child, and even help them work through the trauma and process in safer, healthier ways.

For Even More Tips and Advice for First-Time Foster Parents, Connect With Generational Child Care.

There is so much more you can expect to learn as a first-time foster parent. The team at Generational Child Care will be glad to share more advice and become your most valuable resource for guidance, education, empowerment, and support as you pursue foster parenting.

Contact us today at 478-477-1289.

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