One of the biggest responsibilities of a foster parent is their ability to provide emotional support for their foster child. This if often a monumental task as many foster children are traumatized by the circumstances forcing their removal from their home. Adding to the difficulty, many foster children who have been in the foster care system find it hard to attach to their foster parents for fear of rejection or removal from the home. This often leaves foster parents with the daunting task of trying to parent an emotionally damaged child. This makes it especially important that prospective foster parents understand the emotional requirements necessary for foster parenting.
While addressing every issue is impossible, there are general emotional requirements for foster parents:
This is perhaps the first building block in determining the fitness of potential foster parents. It is crucial that the agency explore each applicant’s ability to be a foster parent and, within that exploration, these topics must be discussed:
1. The reasons why a person wants to become a foster parent must be discussed.
2. Each applicant must have a clear, comprehensive understanding of their foster parent role, including the responsibilities of foster parents relative to the child, the agency and the family.
3. The applicant’s concerns and questions about foster care services should be addressed.
4. The person’s psychological readiness to assume responsibility for a child and his/her ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional.
5. The agency’s role and authority to supervise the placement of the foster child.
6. The attitudes had by each person who would be sharing living accommodations with the child in foster care regarding foster care and his/her concept of what a foster child’s role will be in the family.
7. The awareness of the impact that foster care responsibilities will have upon family life, relationships and current lifestyle.
8. The principles of development and discipline of children must be clearly understood relative to foster parenting.
9. Each child’s need for guidance, a supportive relationship, appropriate stimulation and the opportunity to identify with a parent or surrogate whose history reflects a socially constructive value system.
10. The person’s self-assessment, relative to his/her capacity to provide a child with a stable and meaningful relationship.
While most foster parents say there is no substitute for experience, by carefully addressing the emotional needs of the potential foster parents and examining the needs of the foster child a much happier and ultimately more successful placement can be made.
Another type of foster parent placement that is becoming more common and has its own unique set of emotional requirements is known as kinship or relative foster care. Kinship care is when the child is placed with a relative. Kinship, or relative, foster homes are approved according to established criteria to provide foster care for a specific child by a relative within the second or third degree to the parent(s) or stepparent(s) of the child. Relatives within the second or third degree of a parent include:
• Grandparents of the child.
• Great-grandparents of the child.
• Aunts and uncles of the child, including the spouses of the aunts or uncles.
• Siblings of the child.
• Great-aunts and great-uncles of the child, including the spouses of the great-aunts or great-uncles.
• First cousins of the child, including the spouses of the cousins.
Kinship foster parenting brings the added challenge of the foster parent(s) knowing the biological parents of the child; often, relatives have feelings and opinions concerning their lifestyles and behaviors. The foster parents are responsible for dealing constructively with the situation. It is imperative that they not add to the emotional distress of the foster child.