Actually, we have heard this many times before, so it is not an unusual or uncommon occurrence. Foster parenting is a big step and a major commitment (financially, emotionally, behaviorally, time, etc) so obviously you want all family members to be aware and on board! Generally, the first question I ask when a family contacts our agency: are you married and if so, is your spouse/family on board? It may seem so obvious too many that a family has discussed this major decision prior to making the call, but that is not always the case. So for families who are in this situation, here's what you can do.
As with any major household decision, you want to do your homework. Research foster parenting - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read blogs, stories, and/or articles related to fostering or foster parenting as told by other foster families who have done it. This information can be invaluable. Also, if you have family or friends who have fostered, check in with them about their experiences.
Prepare Your Questions
How many of us have seen something online or in a store that you wanted to buy but put it off because you had a few more questions? The same logic applies to foster parenting. Yes, we are dealing with human beings and not products, so this makes the stakes that much higher. I suggest having a list of prepared questions that you want to ask prior to contacting the foster care agency. Questions can range from how long will the entire process take to what types of kids will be placed in my home to can I turn down a placement? It does not matter. The family meeting is where you can involve other household members in the decision making process. When families feel involved and informed, they are a lot more likely to be invested in the process and go along. Our agency will even schedule one on one time with families to better answer any questions. Also, never feel that you have to get all your questions answered at once. You may have additional questions that come up later and that's okay. Just call the agency back and ask follow-up questions or schedule a private meeting with our Foster Care Specialist.
Hold a Family Meeting
Having a family meeting is another way to get all family members involved. Here, you can address concerns, feelings, attitudes, motivations, rewards, challenges, pros/cons of fostering. During the home study process, foster care staff will meet with family members 1:1 to discuss their feelings/attitudes related to fostering so you want to be sure that there are no surprises. This is where the family meeting could help. It may take more than one family meeting to get everyone's questions/concerns addressed and that is okay. Important decisions should not be rushed and again, we are talking about investing in a child's life so again, the stakes could not be higher.
I think any good decision maker knows to always assess pros/cons of any situation before making important decisions. Sometimes the pros outweigh the cons but sometimes it is opposite. While I am not saying that listing pros/cons should be the panacea for arriving at a decision, it is certainly an important cornerstone.
Making the Call
After you have done your research, prepared your questions, solicited feedback/input from other household members, you are now ready to make the call. Granted, your process for deciding at what point to reach out to a foster care agency may be different. However, it should a decision that is mutually inclusive of all family members as fostering is a family decision and it will certainly impact everyone - even if at different levels. So, when you are ready, go ahead and make the call.
Becoming a foster parent is a big step. There will be lots of changes in your home to accommodate a new child - particularly one with lots of needs. We understand and are here to help. Just know that our caring team of professionals will always be here to support you every step of the way.