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Establishing Workable Boundaries as a Foster Family

Another Key to Being a Strong Foster Parent


Many foster parents feel like they live in a glass fish bowl for the whole world to observe. Some even feel that once they become licensed that their lives are also directed and controlled by foster care. That's no way to maintain a healthy and happy foster family. Here are a few ideas on how to keep boundaries and separate life from foster care.

Putting Boundaries around Marriage, Time with Your Children and Friends

This topic was discussed in lesson one, Strong Foster Families Work to Keep Relationships Strong. There are several ideas listed on how to maintain and strengthen the family.

Putting Boundaries around Work

So many times a foster child's behaviors or needs means that a foster parent must leave work to tend to the child. A few times may be okay with an employer, but it's not long before it can become a problem. Here are a few ideas on how to maintain boundaries for your work.

  • Communicate with your employer. Let them know that you are an active foster parent. Let them know ahead of time when there are meetings that you will need to attend on your foster child's behalf.

  • Partner with your agency. If a foster child is constantly out of school for behavior or illness, work with your foster care agency to come up with a plan to meet the child's needs while not causing issues with your work. Let your agency know when missed days from work become a problem. Foster care agencies do not want a child to disrupt a placement, but you do not want to lose a job either.

  • Partner with a child care provider or other foster parent. This may be another situation that will take planning. Locate licensed child care providers that can help out as needed. Check with your foster care agency for ideas. Perhaps there are foster parents who can do day respite for foster children who have been suspended from school, for example.

  • Be realistic about your limitations. There may come a time when it is in your family's best interest that the foster placement be disrupted. A person can miss only so many days of work before it starts to jeopardize employment.

Putting Boundaries around Your Schedule, Free Time or Space

If you are interested in hobbies or just having some time for yourself, consider putting a few of these ideas to work for you and your family.

  • Make quiet time a weekly occurrence. I learned from working at a group home the value of quiet time for kids as well as for care givers. It was only for a couple of hours when the children would be in their rooms reading, napping, or quietly playing. This gave the staff time to write up daily logs before a shift change. Consider employing the concept of quiet time on Sunday afternoons.

  • Make sure workers know your schedule when setting up your foster child's visitation with birth family. These appointments are usually set up during case planning meetings. Try to be there, with your calendar. Advocate not only for what is best for the foster child, but also for you and your family. But, remember to be reasonable with your requests. The workers do have a lot of children and families on their case loads.

  • Be smart when setting up a foster child's therapy schedule. You will probably have more say in when your foster child has weekly therapy appointments. One of the biggest mistakes I made with a foster child's schedule was giving up time I looked forward to with my sister in order to consolidate some appointments. While it may have been better on my gas tank, it was not for my emotional well-being tank. I looked forward to those weekly lunches. Later, I worked with the therapist to change the schedule in order to get them back. Lesson: Don't be so quick to give up on things that make you happy.

  • Be proactive in setting up monthly meetings with social workers. You know they will email or call to come out, so why not, especially during a busy month, send out an email listing dates you are available, perhaps explaining that your schedule is getting tight. Nothing is more stressful than a worker contacting you on the last day of the month, demanding to visit your home.

    Let your worker know that last minute appointments are stressful to you and the family and suggest ways to helping make scheduling easier. Try scheduling a month ahead. If this behavior continues, after visiting with the worker, consider going through the proper channels to file a complaint.

Putting Boundaries around Church or Religious Activities

Speak with your foster care agency about any concerns you may have about taking a foster child to church. If you accept a foster child who has their own religion, are you as a foster family, able to help a foster child continue practicing? Can you help a foster child keep their faith strong, while attending your own church services too? Can the child attend both?

Look for ways to compromise. You may enjoy learning more about the child's faith, but only if it's not in total disregard of your own time to worship. If so, over time, this may wear you down spiritually as you miss your church, congregation, and spiritual experiences. Consider looking for other solutions if the child wishes to go elsewhere to worship. Perhaps another foster family in town shares the same faith as your foster child and can take him each week. There are solutions, especially when we work as a team.

Some foster families believe that attending church weekly is a family activity and if a foster child does not want to attend, then it's not a good match and the placement should be disrupted. This is your right as a family; do not feel badly about this choice. If the whole family is spiritually fed each week, it can only make for a stronger foster family – and foster child. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you expect foster children to attend church with you each week?
  • What does practicing your faith mean to you and what does it look like?
    • Prayers
    • Church attendance
    • Time to meditate
    • Being able to openly discuss your ideas and beliefs

Maintaining a strong family while providing foster care is important. Want to learn more ways on how to be a strong foster family? Sign up for a free e-course today, Learn How to Be a Strong Foster Family in Four Weeks

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