My wife and I have been fostering children for more than 20 years, and it's quite a job. We've learned a few things along the way that we'd like to share. Some are things you may only hear from another foster parent, not necessarily the caseworker or even the pediatrician who treats your child. We call them foster parenting "truths." Like all truths, some are hard, but we hope they'll bring you comfort, relief and guidance overall.
Love may not always be enough, but you can get through almost anything if you add in a good dose of unlimited patience and a sense of humor. It may be hard at first, but learn to take a deep breath and turn away for a moment, then turn back when you're calmer and can smile. Abused kids in particular are used to being yelled at, so try using funny voices instead, even when you're at your wits' end. At the very least, make every effort to bring the volume down a notch.
Things go best when you do them by the book. Fall back on your state's rules when you're unsure of steps to take in a new situation. It's not a weakness to reach out to your caseworker for advice, and all states offer foster parent training and documentation for guidance. All you have to do is ask for it.
You can't help every child, but you can still cry for them and pray for them.
Foster care is the worst paying job in the world. In fact, you don't get paid at all. The state issues you a check each month, but the money is intended to provide for your foster child, not you or your other children. Always use it for his needs and know that foster parenting is the best paying job in the world when the child in your care begins to thrive.
Enjoy the good days when they come, and look for relief when the bad days add up. There will be some bad days. That's why most states offer respite foster care. Your case worker can arrange for another trained foster parent to come in and take over for a day or two or three if you need a break to get back on an even keel again and do the best parenting you can do. If you think you need help or a bit of a breather, don't hesitate to contact your caseworker.
Kids who've had it rough in life need good, strong parenting. They also need someone to serve them. Knowing when to be a parent and when to be a servant brings the greatest joy and success.
Never let a child go to bed without a "tuck-in."
A 10-year-old child who's never been allowed to be a 10-year-old will not suddenly become one just because he's arrived in your home. Pick your battles, conquer one behavior at a time, and treasure every small step forward.
Always anticipate that the children you foster may not resemble their "resumes." No matter what has been said about them on paper and in reports, they are still individuals — young ones at that — and their responses and behavior can change on a dime.
Work as though everything depends on you, and pray as though everything depends on the Lord.