Kris’ Corner – You don’t have to be a parent to be a foster parent

July 1, 2020

Over the years, I’ve had people tell me that they’re just not sure they could foster because they don’t have any other children, and they’ve never parented.

So I typically respond with something like this, “At some point, we were all in the same position…we weren’t always parents either.”

Now I know what they’re saying, “I don’t know if I’ll be a good parent; I don’t know what I’m doing; I want to do it right!”

I am here to tell you: Everyone feels this way before a child comes into their home, be it biologically or through foster care. No one knows for certain if they’ll be a good parent, no one knows exactly what they’re doing, and we all want to do it right.

So I’ll just put this out here: The only way to know how you’ll do is it try it out! Now, I know it can be terrifying, and I won’t discount the fact that you’ll have DCS and probably Children’s Bureau (because you would certainly get licensed through them) who are walking alongside you as you parent. So it’s not exactly the same experience as if you had a child biologically, but it is not completely different: both take a lot of time, attention, love and patience.

One best thing about never having parented is that you don’t necessarily have all the preconceived notions about what it should be like. Meaning: you’re a little bit of a blank slate. I won’t lie and tell you that parenting a foster child is exactly the same as parenting a biological child…because it is not.

Often, the expectations you place on a child in care vs a neurotypical biological child MUST be different. My husband and I definitely learned that the hard way, and I would venture to guess that many other foster parents who also have biological children would agree. I will be the first to admit that Children’s Bureau was AMAZING with their trainings about how to parent a traumatized child, but I just wasn’t ready to listen completely until I had trauma living under my roof. I could not envision that children would be so different, but they definitely are. Once I realized my misstep in expectations, Children’s Bureau was there to help me get back on track…so consider how far ahead you would be by being able to absorb the information from the outset.

Overall my point is this: fostering without biologicals might be a HUGE blessing to you and the child. You don’t know what you don’t know, so if you don’t know how a neurotypical child would react in a situation, you are probably less likely to compare your foster child to that expectation; you might not expect him to behave neurotypically when he has suffered abuse and neglect which has rewired his brain, and you might be better equipped to meet him where he is rather than where you think he should be…and that sounds like a win-win for both of you.