7 Foster Care Skills You Need Before Becoming a Foster Parent

Regardless of what we would like to believe, being a foster parent is a tough job. Over 400,000 children in the USA enter foster care every year. Even before studying the laws governing foster care in your region, you should examine yourself to determine whether or not you are ready to become a foster parent. Do you really understand how foster care program works? If you lack any of these skills, you can take the time to develop them before going ahead to adopt a child. Here are 7 skills you need before becoming a foster parent:

#1 — Patience
Patience is one of the most important skills in foster parenting. Your friends, kids and even wife might not exactly understand your decision or may not offer sufficient support. The new child will be starting a new life, and it might be considerably different from what he or she was used to. Your house already has its culture and rules, and the child will need to take some time to understand them. Some will even need more time to appreciate the new schedules. If you have no support from your own family, you will have to exercise your patience even more.
In many cases, children who end up in foster care have a history of physical or emotional abuse. This greatly affects their capacity to communicate and also influences their overall self-esteem. Many foster fathers have unrealistic expectations that the child will be very happy to be in your home since their previous family was abusive. However, this is rarely the case since these kids are already used to the abuse.
As the foster father, you will need to understand the situation and dedicate yourself to providing unconditional love to the child.
#2 — Communication Skills
As stated earlier, children in foster care usually lack self-esteem, given their past. Talking to you about their lives can be a form of therapy and will do a lot to help them grow into emotionally strong people. As a foster father, you should be able to encourage children to talk, even when the subject is not very pleasant. Some kids have trouble communicating because of conditions such as autism. Proper skills will help you understand the form of communication appropriate for such young ones.
Good communication skills will also help you get your family through a potentially difficult time raising a foster child. At the end of the day, you will experience emotional fulfillment from the whole activity.
#3 — Proper Disciplining Skills
In general, children communicate through behavior and actions. Just like all other children, foster kids need to be taught proper behavior so that they can grow up into responsible adults. In many places, it is illegal to discipline children by inflicting physical pain. This includes having them perform exercises because of their wrong actions. That form of punishment has also been identified as less effective ways of instilling discipline in children.
#4 — Be a Team Player
Raising a foster child is not a one-man activity. If you have a wife, you have to work with her to raise the child. When you fail or have no idea what to do, your wife and friends should be there to help you out. You also have to be in constant contact with the child’s birth family.
In many places, foster parents have to engage with social workers continuously. During the meetings, you will exchange ideas on how to best raise your foster child, and knowing how to participate in these activities will help you manage your kid properly.
#5 — Adaptability
Men who quickly adapt to different situations will find it easier to be foster parents. The child might have medical and emotional issues, which could disrupt your regular routine. You may end up having to drop many social functions and events because of your new commitment. Are you ready and capable of changing your schedules at the last minute to attend to your foster child? If your response is in the affirmative, then you are well placed to be a foster parent.
Over time, you will also develop a bond with the child. Again, being a flexible man will help you say goodbye when the time comes for the child to leave your home.
#6 — Motivation and Energy
Foster children are not always easy to deal with. In fact, because of what they might have gone through in the past, they are likely to be very difficult to handle. Many times, you will have to move swiftly in order to diffuse a situation with your foster child. Although the laws don’t provide for an upper age limit of foster parents, it is important to evaluate your energy levels before making a decision to adopt a child.

Otherwise, you will burn out and lose the child quickly. It might also become too stressful for you, and can even potentially affect your health. If you don’t have the capacity to handle stressful kids, there isn’t really a need to subject yourself to the pressure.
#7 — Ability to Show Love to Children
Kids in foster care often have a history of love depravity, and this often affects their behavior and emotional state. Knowing how to show them your love and appreciation will go a long way in correcting the wrongs in their past. This will help them grow up into responsible adults. A warm personality and a capacity to know what to say to your child will make them feel loved and appreciated.
Taking care of such children is a sacrifice, and the only thing that will keep you going when things get tough is a wealth of love. With the ability to show love to children, you will naturally know how to become a foster parent.
Becoming a foster father can be a fulfilling experience. It will change the life of a child, and teach you many lessons regarding kids and life in general. However, taking care of foster children is a hard job. So, what do you need to become a foster parent?
Typically, parents with the above skill sets have an easier time filling this role. If you lack any of the skills, you should take the time to learn. Some people even advise to first gain some experience taking care of children before deciding to take the role of foster parenting. Once you feel capable of handling the task, you should go through the local laws to learn the steps to becoming a foster parent.

By Patrick Watt of The Good Men Project.

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