My Tips for New Foster Parents
As a seasoned foster parent of 9 months, I thought I'd share some tips for the newbies. :) You'd be amazed how much you can learn with 3 foster children, 2 birth mothers, and 6 caseworkers in 9 months.
1. If you don't have peace about a placement when it's offered, wait for peace from God. He will give it to you. Don't just jump at the chance to take any and every child, even though your heart may desire it. Pray about it with your spouse and seek God's will before giving an answer.
2. Document EVERYTHING. I cannot stress this enough. Initially I would email the caseworker and copy myself about every little thing, probably contributing to the demise of a couple of our caseworkers. lol You must remember that even though these kids and the outcome of their case is vitally important to you, many of these caseworkers are dealing with extreme situations regarding other children and most likely won't get back to you about a scraped knee or a dirty look from a birth parent. Recently, I started emailing just the most important things and keeping a running journal in a Word document of the date and anything that happened that day that concerned the child, birth parent or caseworker. Turns out, the caseworkers and supervisors LOVE it. It's easy for them to look through and they always attach it to the court report for the judge. Here is an example of a few entries: (names and dates have been changed.)
- 6/05/12 – Birth mom (Jen) called at 8am. Told me she would not make it to therapy this afternoon, but would try to next week.
- 6/07/12 – Jen called this morning to talk to Miss L since she missed her other phone calls this week.
- 6/10/12 – Invited Jen to the park with us tomorrow at 1pm.
3. Visit the doctor frequently. Coming from a parent who has never had to take her biological children to the doctor for a sick visit, put them on an antibiotic or go to an ER, this was a BIG adjustment. These kids' immune systems are not great for many reasons, as you can imagine. If any of you can remember the case of the Edmond foster mother who was charged with child abuse last year, this is why documentation and doctor's visits are such a huge deal. This was going on when we were in the process of finalizing our certification and it was a huge deterrent for us. After researching the case more, the one thing that I believe could have prevented the charges and most importantly, the death of this child, was visits to the doctor. Take your new placement to the doctor ASAP after you pick them up. Get them in with Dr. Shropshire at the Fostering Hope Clinic or your own pediatrician to get a baseline reading of their health documented. From that point on, take them whenever they are sick. It is just not worth the risk of seeing if they'll be better in a couple days. These are not your children and their bodies react very differently than your biological children's do, most likely. I have gone to the doctor more times in the past 9 months than I have gone in the past 6 years all together with my other 3 children, and I'm okay with that. (I also recommend taking pictures and videos frequently as well to document how they're doing.)
4. Get permission from the bio parent and caseworker to cut the child's hair. Whoops... am I the only foster parent who didn't know this until afterwards??
5. This may sound harsh, but don't expect much from the biological parents. They were not raised like we were or loved like we were. A lot of them are incapable of being a healthy and effective parent. Try hard to refrain from judgment since you have not walked in their shoes. Just love them, even if they don't love you back. You might be the only person in their life who does.
6. Expect the unexpected. The theme for this month in our household is: Siblings. Let's just say that there will likely be a new addition to our crew towards the end of the year. Prayers are welcome and requested.
7. We have to remember why GOD called us to this. It wasn't so we could adopt a child, although that might happen. God's purpose for everything is to point us and others towards Christ and salvation. Take inventory of your emotions and actions often and make sure your heart is still where it needs to be. He will bless you and your family if you put Him first, even when it would be much easier not to.
Fellow foster parents... what did I miss? Add your tips in the comment section!!