Foster care can be rewarding beyond imagination. You will have children come and go from your home and they will be all the better for it just because you took time with them. You taught and guided them. However, bringing children into your home requires a specific mindset. How will you know if you and your family are ready?
1. You will have support from your spouse, kids, and immediate family and friends.
Kids that come into your home come with baggage and trauma. They will say and do things that may not be allowed in your home but may have been perfectly acceptable in their own home. At first, we will immediately want to correct this behavior for fear that family will criticize us for not "controlling" the little one. It doesn't have to be that way. Let your family and friends know up front that there will be challenges and you will need their support to help correct some of the behaviors.
2. Behavior doesn't stop the world.
As mentioned before kids come with baggage. They are going to rebel, lie, and disobey. If you can handle that with your own kids in a calm fashion you won't get burned out. You will find that these kids are jaded and trust very few people. When you come with the proverbial hammer descending with lightning speed don't be surprised you are met with resistance. They have been exposed to a whole different set of rules, or lack thereof. Patience and the ability to dole out punishment at a later time will be your weapons of choice.
3. You can rework your schedule on the fly.
If you are regimented in your scheduling and don't like surprises then be ready to pull your hair out. Kids that come into your home will have court dates, doctor appointments, social work visits, and meetings at DHR to determine needs and services. These appoints may be directed by your social worker over the phone at 9 in the morning after you have planned to get groceries or run errands. The school the child attends may be different than the one your children attends. You may get a call from the school that little Johnny hit a peer. Another wrench in the cogs of your day. Fear not! If you can call a family member or reschedule your plans on the fly you will survive.
4. You can say, "No".
Not every request for a placement in your home must be accepted. Your local DHR will find a place for any child that comes into care. If you know that the situation of the child will not fit your family do not put yourself through that pain. Not every child that comes into care will be a fit for you and that is OK! You will not be ridiculed and your social worker will not treat you differently. Know your family and your situation. There is a family for that child and it's OK to say, "NO".
The inner workings of foster care are comprehensive. This does not cover all the facets of dealing with children and being ready. However, you will be one step ahead and mentally prepared for whatever may come your way. With support from your family and friends you will be able to overcome the challenges of bringing a new child in your home. The raging tornado of a traumatized child will not be your downfall because you will be patient and punish appropriately. Those random phone calls for emergency meetings and court dates will be prioritized and your errands can be done later. Being able to tell your worker you cannot take a placement right now is OK, and you are OK with that. You are ready. Go, and make a difference!