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Over a month ago I received an email from someone interested in becoming a foster parent. What I love most about getting email is that it gives me the opportunity to learn what I'm doing well, and what I'm falling down on.

Hi Carrie,

You're articles have a lot of information about foster care, but I do have some questions.

what I'm looking for is an article that tells you really like it is, the challenges, difficulties, etc. I'm interested in foster care, but I'm not sure if it's for me and I wanted a "from the trenches" report. The state agency says it's challenging, but what exactly does that mean? I've gleaned from your articles that it can be stressful, but just how stressful? what can you expect from these kids? Is it an ongoing battle to manage their behaviors?

I've volunteered with kids for years at after school programs and most of them are very sweet and adorable. Many of the kids have become close to me and they are really wonderful and fun to be around. I also have a niece and nephew (now grown) that spent a lot of time with me when they were little. It's these experiences that have prompted my interest in foster care. But do my experiences with kids match the reality of foster care? Anyway if you have any articles dealing with this subject, I'd love to read them.

This email pointed me in the direction of some missing information. So, I wrote up a quick count down of challenges faced by foster parents.

All foster parents out there, what would you add to the list? What advice would you give this potential foster parent? Click "comments" below and share.
November 19, 2007 at 3:17 pm
(1) DivaJean says:

I would have to say that to me, the biggest challenge of fostering is parenting by committee. Decisions that you would make on your own about where to go, what to do and how to parent must include the foster worker and others involved as the child is considered a ward of the state.

Don’t get me wrong- I understand the need for safety, accountability, etc- but it does make it hard when you need permission for things like- haircuts, field trips, family trips.

The pediatrician at our foster clinic does not believe in feeding cereal to children under 4 months old. We suffered through more hungry baby nights than I would have! But had I fed the child earlier- against physician orders- the babies could have been taken away from us.

November 21, 2007 at 12:20 am
(2) adoption says:

I hear ya! That is very frustrating.

I was also thinking about the foster child’s behaviors or issues on the other children in your home.

March 10, 2010 at 5:04 am
(3) Karla says:

One of the biggest challenges for myself as a fosterparent is knowing when to step up and how hard do you push when you are to be the voice for the child. There will be times when you will not agree with your case worker and or the agencies decisions. You must be strong enough to do what you know is right and willing enough accept that your voice actually carries very little weight. Now, not all agencies are alike and personalities play big part. There is a lot of talk about being a team for the child, in some cases this is so and others you will feel like a lone voice. Advocating for medical and educational treatment for your foster children tends to be a big hurdle. Example: your child is exhibiting behaviors in your home, that you know need addressed by a medical proffessional, but naturally the child does not show the behavior during visits at the agency.(They are good as gold) If you are only one seeing and documenting, you will not be able to get the help for the child. The agency workers must see the behavior as well. This can be hard if the behavior is one that occurs afterhours. This has been the most stressfull part for my family, is knowing that a child needs help and you are not permitted to get that help for the child. Also, knowing that if you push to hard there is always a chance that you will be blackballed, meaning you may cause the child to be put in another home and that you may not get another placement. I have no regrets and our family is dedicated to help families and children heal. But, it can be hard and you must be willing accept that you ultimatly have no control over the decisions that are being made for the child/ren. You must accept that you simply have the roll to care for and provide a safe environment. Loving these children is the easy part,caring for their daily needs is relatively easy,letting go is heartbreaking and bitter-sweet. But, seeing a family stronger and reunified is rewarding. There is a bigger picture to consider, we all have a part to play to better the future of all children, what if we all did nothing? But, what if we all did just a little bit, maybe only 1 child will you make a difference for directly, but that child’s future generations will benefit from the love you have given.

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