By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously on the form here.
I’ve been hearing more lately about the growing number of kids in foster care. I’ve started wondering if being a foster parent is right for me, but I’m not sure what impact it would have on my own children, who are both in elementary school. What should I know to help me decide if foster parenting is right for my family? ~ Thinking It Over
Dear Thinking it Over:
There’s a huge need for foster parents in North Carolina. According to some of the most recent data available, there are over 11,000 children in foster care in North Carolina alone, and with numbers that have been on an upward trend in recent years. Being a foster parent is a wonderful way to make a difference in your community and especially in the life of the child or children to whom you open your home.
That said, becoming a foster parent is a major commitment, and it’s wise to take your time to think it over, just as you’re doing. A first step toward making a decision if fostering parenting is right for you is to learn as much as you can about foster parenting, the foster care system, and the steps that you’d need to take to become a foster parent. The NC Department of Health and Human Services offers a lot of resources on their web-site to help you learn about this, including an informative 24-page brochure that’s packed with information about the process of becoming a foster parent, including a list of agencies across the state that you can also contact for more information. Many of these agencies also offer information sessions that you can attend to learn more about the process without any obligation to commit to the licensing process. Because this is such a huge decision, take all the time you need to learn everything you can and gather the information that will help you make an informed decision. If possible, talk to other families that have taken this step to learn firsthand how they navigated these transitions and supported their biological children in the process.
Part of your decision-making process also should involve talking this decision over with everyone else in your family, including your spouse (if applicable) and your children. Opening your home to children in foster care can be a wonderful experience for children, but it can also come with stressors as well. Some possible benefits for your children may include the opportunity to help make a positive difference in the life of other children even at an early age, learning to honor and value differences between people, and developing adaptability to different situations and people. Some of the stressors that may come up for biological children in homes where foster children are introduced may include feelings of jealousy or competition for attention and difficulty navigating the transition periods when children enter and leave the home.
Finally, remember that timing is another important factor in deciding whether and when to pursue becoming a foster parent. You may decide that this is a great stage of life in your family to become a foster parent, or you may decide to wait until your children are a little older to reconsider it.
Keep in mind that, even if you don’t decide that foster parenting is right for your family, there are many other ways that you can help support children in foster care in our community, such as by volunteering with organizations that serve these children and foster families or by donating money or needed items to those organizations. Volunteering also can be a great way to learn more about the foster care system, which can further help you decide if fostering is right for you.
For some great inspiration on the power of foster parenting to make a difference in the world, check out this recent HRI blog post by guest blogger, MaryLou Dovan. Unfortunately, far too many children have experienced difficult situations that have led them into the foster care system. By taking the time to thoughtfully consider whether foster parenting is right for your family, you are making an important step toward supporting these children in our community and beyond.
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