What Makes a Great Foster Parent?

I recently did back to back presentations to a group of foster parents and then to a group of potential foster parents.

After the presentation to the group of foster parents, I spoke with a few of them and shared stories about what I had to overcome and many of the same challenges their children are facing. I noticed several similarities between how they are helping their children resolve the same issues I was dealing with.

The next month, after presenting to the group of potential foster parents, one came up to me and simply asked, “What do you think it takes to make a great foster parent?” I simply answered, “A desire to help a troubled, complete stranger, like you would one of your own kids”. The woman simply smiled and said, “That’s what I thought…”

I was in 10 different homes in my three years of living in foster care. Even though I had PLENTY of issues ranging from severe ADD, mental, emotional and physical abuse to lots of anger, I could tell which foster parents were there for the paycheck and which ones had MY best interest in mind.

Those three families had strikingly similar attributes in common.

The first was a desire to provide a safe place. They did not try to overwhelm me and hover over me. They simply explained the rules, said they were there for me if I needed them and just let me be.

The second thing they did was they SHOWED that they cared. They all took an active role in getting to know me. They would all ask how my day was at school, was there anything new or exciting I read or saw on TV. A simple conversation but to someone who was raised being told “children should be seen and not heard”, to actually have someone asking me questions and really wanting to know the answers was very fulfilling.

The final, and in my opinion the most important, was they all considered me part of the family. If you were to ask any of the three how many children they had, they would never say “I have two children of my own and two foster kids”, they would simply say “I have four children”.

Pretty much every child in foster care feels rejected and that no one wants them. This type of inclusion means the world to us. To hear someone include them in discussions, to actually feel and be a part of a family that wants us is indescribable. Almost 30 years later, I still fondly remember those who treated me like their own and luckily I am still in touch with two of the three.

I can truly say as an adult, if it wasn’t for those families caring for me and showing me what love really is, I would not be here today.

So what does it take to be a great foster parent??? Love like you never thought you could love…