Navigating Your Fostering Journey at Any Stage
Whether you’ve just started looking into foster care, are getting ready to take your first placement or are an experienced foster parent, there’s a lot to learn no matter where you are on your journey. Great Circle foster parents Jamie and Kathryn share the enrichment fostering has brought to their families and some of the wisdom they've picked up along the way.
When a kiddo is first placed with a new foster family, it’s a big period of transition. “The best thing to have on hand is a bit of time and flexibility,” says Kathryn. Each child is different, and even an experienced foster parent might have a learning curve while getting familiar with their foster child’s needs. Starting with the basics like food, clothing and comfort is a necessary first step, but it’s also an opportunity for building a connection. Taking the time to learn about where a child comes from and what they need to feel at home will make it easier for your kiddo to start bonding with you.
Find Your Community
It really does take a village, and making sure you have a support network allows you to be the best foster parent possible. This will look different for everyone, sometimes this means looking to other foster families, seeking professional advice or relying on friends and family.
Staying connected with your existing support system can make a huge difference. “We have always been grateful for the love and support of our friends and family in our lives. It's meant so much as those around us have stepped up to help us,” says Jamie.
Bonding with others involved with foster care can make caregivers feel less alone in the experience. It’s also great to look to other foster parents and child welfare professionals for advice. “When I'm challenged there has to be SOMEONE with an answer, and I go searching for them to be my new best friend,” says Kathryn.
Trauma-Informed Foster Parenting
Children in foster care are more likely to have more adverse childhood experiences. Traumas experienced early in life can impact development and behavior, understanding this brings a necessary perspective shift. “The majority of the behavior that we see is a direct result of the trauma these sweet kids have faced,” says Jamie. When dealing with a challenging situation, Jamie has adopted the mantra “connection over correction,” focusing on where she can build paths of communication.
Behaviors are often an attempt to communicate an unmet need the child doesn't have language for. Many children in foster care haven’t had the experiences necessary to understand their own needs or how to fulfill them. When a foster parent becomes concerned with a behavior, this often means the child needs an adult to pay attention to them and help them get to the root of what they need.
A Lasting Impact
Fostering connects families of all kinds with each other. Foster families become a source of loving support for the kids they bring into their care. No matter what a foster child’s path looks like, the impact of positive experiences with a foster family stay with them. Kathryn’s family tries to stay in contact with the kids they have fostered. She shares, “my biological son loves when ‘new friends' come to visit, for however long they stay, and he still asks after them.”
Families also find themselves changed by their foster care experience. Kathryn feels her family has discovered a deeper compacity for care. Looking back on the kiddos and families her family has bonded with, she says, “foster care may be a temporary journey, but loving someone is for a lifetime.”