As you may have heard before, becoming a foster parent is not the easiest process. Nothing worth having (doing) is easy though, right? Exactly. That being said it never hurts to prepare when taking on any role in life and foster parenting is definitely one of those roles that every ounce of preparation is well worthwhile! The ten steps listed below by foster parent, Carrie Craft, provide some helpful ideas for how you can prepare for one of the most rewarding roles in your life.
- Get lots of experience with children of all ages.
- Volunteer at group homes.
- Babysit for foster families.
- Ask your local agency if they need volunteers to babysit during foster care meetings or support groups. This will give you experience working with children who may have been abused or neglected.
- Get educated on all things child related. Take training or college courses on children, child development, and parenting. Family Studies may be a helpful area of study as well.
- Make enough money to support yourself. Obtain a job that will support yourself and your current family. You will need to be able to prove that you can support yourself without the help of any outside funds – like foster care subsidy.
- Learn about state regulations. Find out your state’s regulation regarding the age requirement for becoming a foster parent. Do you need to be at least twenty-one years of age?
- Learn about regulations regarding single or married foster parents. If you are married find out if your state prefers that you be married for a certain amount of time. Some agencies require that a couple be together for about two years before fostering. Yes, singles can foster. Know that if you do marry after you become a foster parent your spouse will be required to take the foster parent training. Many states support gay/lesbian foster parents as well.
- Have enough space. Find an apartment or home that you can afford that is large enough for one or more foster children. Find out your state’s requirements on bedroom size so that you don’t wind up with a home with rooms that are too small. Yes, you can rent.
- How is your yard?
Find out from your state about the following:
Fixing these issues a little at a time will save you money in the long run. Many families begin the foster care process to learn that they will have to pay out several hundred dollars for a fence around their pool. Find out now and plan for such an expense.
Does your yard need to be fenced?
Do you have a pond or swimming pool? What regulations does the state have on bodies of water?
Is your play equipment in good repair? Does it need to be anchored?
- Do you have adequate transportation? Depending on your area and the type of public transportation available, you may not need to worry about a car. If you do need a vehicle, remember that you will need a reliable car that is large enough to transport the number of children you plan on fostering. Some foster care placements require a lot of driving to appointments and visits with family.
- Prepare your family and establish your support system. Foster care is not easy. Let your family and friends know about your plans and listen to any concerns they may have. This will give you time to seek out answers and calm their fears before bringing home your first foster child. This will also let you know who are your supporters and who you can call on when you need a break or a listening ear.
- A bit about furniture. You might also want to find out about bunk beds and other bedroom furniture so that you can start looking at garage sales or furniture stores when you are ready. Many states don’t allow bunk beds or trundles. You will need to have beds in place before licensing, to show that you are ready to go, but don’t get all worried about having enough toys or clothes. Each child is different and clothing and toys are personal. You may want to wait before buying too much stuff.