Becoming a Foster Parent? 3 Changes you should know about that will impact you and your family.
So, you want to become a foster parent? Well, there are a few things that you should understand before you make that choice. Your life will change.
Really, if you are thinking that you can simply become a foster parent and be the same as you are today, you’re mistaken. Becoming a foster parent will change almost every aspect of your life. Some of the changes will be easy transitions, while others will be total upheavals.
Your Time Budget
Possibly the biggest change will be your time. You may be used to having your time be yours, or maybe your time is shared with your wife, or your own kids. Once you add foster kids into the mix your time will be shared between more people. Believe me, at times your time will be spread pretty thin. For example, at one point my wife and I had 3 foster boys. The two older boys had jobs at the local grocery store. One of the boys had football practice, one eventually had wrestling practice, and it seemed like they often worked different schedules than each other. We really had to change our schedules to make all of this fit in. In fact, we had to teach our youth that they couldn’t do everything that they wanted to, simply because we weren’t able to provide the time necessary to take them all over.
I’m not saying that you have to do everything that your foster kids want you to do, but you do need to realize that they bring an added dimension to your time budget.
The structure of your home.
I’m not talking about the physical structure of the home, though you may feel that you need to change that to add more room, I’m talking about the structure in the ways that you handle and do things in your home. For example, when we were raising teen foster boys, we found that when they had a schedule telling them what chores and responsibilities that they had for the week, they were more productive. In fact, when they had their chores and responsibilities printed out for them, they would often do them on their own without being reminded. Any time they complained about being bored we could simply say, “Are your chores done?” If the answer was yes they would be able to do something as a reward for being done. If the answer was no, than they would know that that they had to get that done. The chore charts took thought and time, and they didn’t always work perfectly.
We also had to change the structure of the discipline in our home. Before having teenage foster boys, we had only had our two young boys. With our foster teenage boys we had to become very specific with what we expected out of them. We also had to be very individual for each of our foster kids’ needs. Some needed less freedoms and more structure, while other were transitioning to independent living and needed more freedom.
Don’t sacrifice all the structure in your home to cater to your foster kids; you’ll be miserable and get burned out. Compromise and custom make the structure of your home to be mutually beneficial. Our chore chart is a good example of this. We had chore that needed done, but less time to do them as foster parents, and we had foster boys who needed to learn responsibility. So, the chore chart benefited all of us. It was just a small change to the structure of our home.
Let’s be honest. You probably didn’t become a foster parent hoping to get rich. In fact, I hope that was not your deciding factor. Yes foster parents make money for their services, and rightfully so; but really, the added income is usually not very substantial. So you might ask, “Why do I need to change my budget?” Well, you will need to spend your money a little differently and track how you spend it differently as well. For example, When we get paid, or reimbursed as it is officially called through our agency, a portion of that money is for very specific things. You might have to spend a certain amount of money on clothing, or personal hygiene, or even pay a small allowance. When you pay for these things, you need to keep receipts and detailed information about where the money has gone. Some foster parents are simply paid a daily amount for having the foster child in their home and are not required to pay an allowance, or even show that they have provided clothing and hygiene needs for the child. However, I still recommend that you keep detailed records. There are a lot of negative myths and stories about foster parents. Keeping detailed records of how you have spent money on your foster kids will protect you from false accusations by upset foster kids or biological parents.
I know that these changes may not be easy or natural, but they will be worth it. And, just remember, make the changes in a way that will be beneficial you both you, your family and your foster youth.