All states will require some sort of training for prospective foster and adoptive families and singles. These trainings have several different specific purposes, the main purpose being to prepare families to parent children, permanently or temporarily, who are currently in the foster care system.Here are some things you can expect from these required parenting classes:
Varied class sizes. Depending on the class you sign up for and your area or region, you could find yourself in a small group or a very large group.
Taught by one or two leaders. You will probably be trained by an experienced foster or adoptive parent and a licensed social worker or agency staff worker. Plan on lecture being part of the class format.
Videos. Some classes may include videos that feature birth families who have worked with the foster care system, children who have experienced foster care, and foster parents. Some participants find these videos to not only be very enlightening, but to bring about strong emotion.
Class discussions. Most classes also include various activities that require small group work. Large group discussions on a variety of topics is also a huge part of the learning environment for most foster care classes.
Role plays. Opportunities to participate in role plays help participants think on their feet and gain greater insight into different situations faced by birth parents, foster parents, and children. Know that you will always be given the option to pass on being in front of the group. No one will make members of the class participate in an activity that makes them nervous.
Homework. Homework will also be a part of these classes. This will include reading as well as the completion of handouts. All of this is separate from the licensing paperwork.
Home visits by class leaders and agency staff. Home visits are also required for most training programs. These will be scheduled by the leaders of the class. The home visits allow leaders the opportunity to meet privately with families to discuss their interest in fostering or adopting. Leaders can also help families assess if their home will pass the licensing inspection and what changes they may need to make.
Strong themes about abuse and extreme child behavior. Expect information that is presented in class to be realistic and not sugar coated. Some of the topics participants will discuss and hear in lecture may make them upset or angry. Don’t let this keep you from finishing the classes. The worst case scenarios are usually shared and discussed to help families feel thoroughly prepared.
Guest speakers. Some training also includes panel discussions with guests from the community visiting the class to talk about their experiences or role in the field. These panels may include experienced foster parents, judges, CASAs, GALs, social workers or therapists.
Diversity within the group. Expect to be part of a group that includes all types of families. There may be childless, married couples, older couples with grown children, couples raising children, singles with children, singles without children, interested in providing foster care while others will be interested in adopting. This is part of the reason these trainings are often so interesting and informative. Come with an open mind prepared to hear differing points of view. Remember the most important thing - everyone in the class is there due to their concern for children in the foster care system and the desire to help those in need.
Mix of personalities. There may be people in the class who get on your nerves, some that are very witty, a few emotional people who struggle to understand why any child is abandoned, and a couple who never speak. Again, it adds to the class dynamic and makes for interesting discussions.
Some members drop out of the class early. Don’t be surprised if some families don’t return to scheduled meetings as they decide not to foster or adopt. That’s part of the process.
Several weeks of training and preparation. Be prepared for the classes to take several weeks. Even though there is a huge need for foster and adoptive families, this time is important for two different reasons. It allows those leading the class time to get to know the different participants and make their recommendations on who should become licensed foster or adoptive parents and it gives the families time to learn all they can before deciding to move forward toward licensing.
Enjoy making new friends. Know that while starting the training process can seem daunting, most participants find the trainings enjoyable and informative. The camaraderie from the other classmates adds to the experience. Just think at the end of training, you will have new friends and options for future respite providers.
As always if you have any questions, please check with your chosen agency as things do vary from state to state and between agencies.