All children come with unique personalities and needs. Parents work diligently to meet these needs. Sometimes parenting fails and children are placed in a foster care system. They still have unique personalities and needs, but their world has been turned upside down. Their needs have changed. What most foster children need and want is to be sent back to their biological parents. Foster parents have a difficult job. They cannot take the place of the missing parents. Caring for foster children requires one to meet all the needs of these children they can until these children can be placed in a permanent situation, whether that be back with the parents or in an adoption situation. How can a foster parent care for foster children?It is easy to meet the basic needs of a foster child. They need food, clothing and shelter. Even this has sometimes been lacking in the home, therefore, you may see hoarding, Some have never slept in a real bed. You may find them under the bed, or wandering about the house, or sprawled on the couch. With patience and understanding, these basic needs can become second nature to the foster child. But to care for foster children, a foster parent must look beyond the new shirt, the spaghetti dinner and the first bed. A foster child has needs that go much deeper than basic needs.
It is not unusual for the foster child to feel unloved and rejected. When there have been multiple placements, the child may act out in an attempt to cause the rejection. They may feel that rejection is inevitable and by acting out they control when the rejection occurs. Also, acting out could be a result of issues in the biological home that included physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Each child comes into a foster home with a history. A history the foster parent cannot completely know or understand, but it is important to give validity to that history. Rarely will a foster child share experiences immediately. It is a process. A trust must be built before a foster child can share. The child may never share. A foster parent's job is not to question the child and force the issue, but it is to be there and willing to listen when the child is ready to share.It is critical that foster parents do not expect the foster children to act like their biological children. Each child, whether biological or foster, has a genetic makeup that is unique. Along with nurture, the genetic makeup will determine every aspect of how the child will grow and mature. With biological children, a parent has been there from the beginning and quickly learns how the child will behave in different situations, how easily the child can learn, and how the child can be nurtured to build on strengths. A foster child is an unknown. It takes time to get to know this person. It takes time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses. It takes time to "break through" a barrier the child may have built up for protection. Foster parenting takes patience and monitoring and adjusting, sometimes on a daily basis.
The key to caring for foster children, is to never give up on yourself or the child. Frustration will occur. Patience and attempt at understanding is necessary. However, the most critical quality a foster parent must have is love. Foster children need acceptance and love. Loving a difficult child can be challenging. A foster child can be labeled a difficult child, but it is imperative to love that child for as long as the opportunity exists and to love that child for who he is and who he can become.