Ten Rules for Foster Parents

What They Don’t Teach in Your Training

  1. Don’t take things personally. This includes things that foster children say, and especially things the birth parents tell you.

  2. Don’t take things personally. As in Fight Club, you better review rule #1 a second time. Both the kids and the birth parents can say some outrageous things. The kids are liable have only one coping skill, confrontation. Their parents may be the same way. The foster children might resent you because they want to be back at home. The birth parents may begrudge you because they see your role as a powerful symbol of their own mistakes.

  3. Foster children are going to have problems, but all kids have problems. I know that my siblings and I had our share of drama especially in the teen years. Now, multiply that, since foster kids likely witnessed or received abuse and probably have more intense, gritty life experience than most adults.

  4. The specter of adoption. When I was in county training, I had to take both foster training and adoptive training. I told the powers that be that I wasn’t here to adopt. No possible way! They tried to hide their knowing smiles and assured me the additional training was vital. Years later, I am a proud adoptive parent. You can’t help but fall in love with the kids.

  5. No matter how much you think you’ve been around, prepare to be shocked.

  6. Clothes. Have lots of children’s clothes on hand, in various sizes. A social worker may deliver a child with lots of clothes-filled, white, plastic trash bags (CPS’s favorite luggage). They may have nada or wear clothes that are beyond tattered and torn. Having clothes on hand can ease their transition. Ditto for diapers—stash lots of different sizes in your closet.

  7. Education. Your foster child has rights, and the powers that be may or may not let you in on the secrets. Their district may have a “stay put” program for foster and homeless kids. A foster child’s life is in enough turmoil, and having continuity with the same teacher and school can add a foundation of security and normalcy to their lives. Also, if a child has learning problems you can demand, in writing, that they be tested for learning disabilities. Stick to your guns, since some districts try and discourage parents who ask for help.

  8. Try your damndest with the birth parents. Don’t shut them out. We did our share of listening and mentoring, more the former than the latter. They may initially view you as the thief who stole their children, but sometimes you can reach through the fog. On the other hand, don’t get your heart broken if they conclude you are the Anti-Christ.

  9. Lactose. This may come as a shock, but so many children cannot digest milk. Have some soymilk on hand as well as a few cans of powdered soy baby formula just in case. If a child is having intestinal issues, try a milk-free regimen and see if it helps.

  10. It’s okay to grieve, and be prepared to sing the blues. When the children leave your home, face medical issues or emotional trauma, you will grieve.

I know most top ten lists stop at ten, but… “These go to eleven.”

  1. Bonus Advice/Coutesy of our Editor, Chris Chmielewski who spent time in foster care and speaks from experience. Don’t lock the *** fridge. He was, I presume, in homes where food was strictly rationed. Treat your foster kids as well as you would treat your own flesh and blood.

Editor's Note: I was. It sucked.