Foster care agencies often work hard to bring in new foster homes. How about keeping the foster homes they already have? Here is a list created with the help from foster families in my area as well as with Allysa, a foster parent in New Zealand. The feelings seem to be mutual no matter where the foster care agency or foster homes are located.
- Treat the foster parent as a professional part of the team. They have been trained to work with the children and the birth families.
- Remember that the foster parents have had the foster child in their care 24 hours a day, so they know the child. Listen to what they have to say about the child's behavior and needs.
- Return phone calls/email messages as soon as you can. Foster parents know that you are busy, but when they are not heard they feel alone in this process.
- Visit the children you have placed in the foster home. Don't just place the child and never make face-to-face contact with that child or the foster family.
- Make sure that the child and the foster family are suited for each other. Refrain from leaving out important information about the child just to find a placement at 5:30pm on a Friday. Placing a child who has been in 7 different foster homes due to behaviors with a new foster family may also be a bad idea.
- Provide foster families with information on how to obtain support resources if the need arises. Phone numbers and a calendar of support groups may be very helpful to them.
- Acknowledge the foster family when a placement ends, for the part they have played in the child's care. Let them know how important they are/were in the life of that child. Allow them to grieve without guilt.
- If an allegation should be made against a foster home remember that they will need a lot of support. Offer what you can or refer them to appropriate support resources.
- Sympathize with the stress of the daily tasks associated with foster homes. Validate their feelings, even if you think they are overreacting at times. Allow foster families to vent feelings without minimizing them. When they know that they have been heard they can do a better job.
- Allow foster families to have a time out every once in awhile. Whether it be a short respite or a few months off in-between placements; letting the foster family be themselves from time to time rejuvenates and helps them prepare for the next foster child.
- Help foster families keep better files by making sure they have all the needed paperwork when a child comes into their foster homes. They will need a medical card, medical release form, placement papers, and the child's immunization record.
(The forms needed will vary based on country or state in the U.S.)
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