Foster parents meeting with attorney to begin the foster/adoption process for young girl in the foreground of the image.

There are thousands of children in California in the foster system who need loving homes. Being a foster parent can come with countless rewards. But there might also be some unexpected challenges. It’s important to make sure you and your family are adequately prepared before making the decision to care for a foster child. Although the child may not live with you permanently, fostering a child for even a short time can have a tremendous impact on their future — and yours. Here are five crucial things you should know before you foster a child:

1. You Need a Strong Support Network When Fostering a Child

As much as it is rewarding, being a foster parent can often feel isolating. Not many people know what it is like to welcome a new child into their home and work closely with Social Services. In addition, children in foster care have usually experienced some form of trauma, such as abuse or neglect. Having a strong and reliable support network is critical to ensure you are successful in overcoming the challenges you might face — and have people with whom to share your successes.

Usually, the only people who will understand what you’re going through when you care for a foster child are other foster parents. By finding a group you can connect with, you’ll have valuable resources to provide you with advice and insight. You should also make an effort to attend any training courses or programs that are offered through Social Services and other organizations.

2. Reunification is Typically the Main Goal

Many people might consider fostering in hopes of adopting a child from the foster system. While this can sometimes happen, reunification between the child and their birth parents is usually the primary goal. If your hope is to adopt, it’s important to keep in mind that unless the biological parents’ rights are legally terminated, the ultimate objective is to return the child to them.

In most cases, a child is in the foster system because their parents cannot care for them. Foster care is usually only meant to provide a temporary home for a child while their parents get the help they need — it is not supposed to be a permanent solution.

3. You Need to Have Positive Disciplinary Skills

Building a strong relationship with your foster child requires using positive discipline. It’s important to understand that a foster child may be acting in a negative way or responding to certain situations in an inappropriate manner due to their past trauma or abuse. A child who grew up in an unhealthy environment might also have specific triggers with which you should be familiar. Your job is to manage their behavior in a healthy manner and create a bond that helps your child feel safe and supported.

4. You Must Have Effective Communication Skills

When fostering a child, you will be communicating with various people, including judges, social workers, therapists, doctors, and teachers. It’s essential to have good listening skills and the ability to advocate for your foster child’s needs effectively. In addition, you should take the time to spend quality time in communication with the child, regardless of their age.

But communication isn’t just one-sided. Your foster child should know that you’re there to listen when they need someone to talk with. Patience, empathy, and understanding are key when raising a foster child — sometimes, it can be difficult for a child to convey their feelings. The child should know that you value their thoughts and you can help them handle any situation they might be facing.

5. Your Life Will Change When Fostering a Child

For the first month or two after you begin fostering a child, expect to spend most of your time getting to know each other. You may need to adjust your lifestyle to fit the child’s needs as they go through this difficult time. When you sign up, you’re only given a brief summary of the child’s life, so it’s impossible to fully prepare for the challenges ahead.

When you open your home to a foster child, you must always put their needs first. While the fostering journey might be hard for you, remember that it’s also hard for the child. But while there are a lot of ups and downs along the way, being a foster parent is a fulfilling and life-changing experience for both of you.

Contact an Experienced Fresno Family Law and Adoption Attorney

If you’re considering adopting a child from the foster system, it’s best to have a knowledgeable family law and adoption attorney by your side to guide you through the complexities of the legal process. For more than 20 years, The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been dedicated to helping clients with fostering a child and adoption throughout Fresno and the surrounding area with a wide variety of family law matters. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559)222-4891.