Today’s post is written by Jessica Freeman, entrepreneur, author, and the co-creator of The Fostering Circle. Jessica, alongside her husband, Aaron, founded The Fostering Circle to equip newer foster parents and fill a gap in education through online workshops as well as community support. Learn more at http://www.thefosteringcircle.com.
Becoming a foster parent is a really big decision. As someone who was previously a foster parent, I know how mentally exhausting it can be to be a foster parent.
And one of the most important things you can do as a foster parent is to prepare your family before your placement, and to also take care of yourself during that time.
First, let’s talk about preparing yourself for foster care.
One of the most important things you can do with your spouse or significant other is talk through the day-to-day decisions. For example, how will you discipline your child, what will the bedtime routine look like, will you alternate who does bedtime routine, what will your snack policy be for the kids, and so on.
These seem like really simple things, but foster care kids needs structure and having consistency will help them adjust even quicker inside your home. So, you want to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.
Now, of course, there is always room for adjustment, you can always make adjustments later. But you want to be sure that you are both telling the kids the same thing, so it’s not like mom is always saying no to snacks, and dad is saying yes to snacks.
Next, let’s talk about taking care of yourself during your placement.
The other important thing is to take care of yourself, and self care looks like a lot of different things for different people. But I want to give you some ideas of ways you can incorporate more self care for yourself.
For example, this could look like getting up an hour before everyone else to meditate or have quiet time, or just to read a good book. Or after the kids go to bed each night, you take a relaxing bath, and read.
Because I did a lot more of the work in the day to day things with our foster daughter, like getting her ready for bed and getting her ready for school, I had a lot more of the work during the week. So, my husband and I had an arrangement where Saturday mornings, he would take her to breakfast, they would go get groceries, go to the park, etc.
While he was doing that, I had a few hours of me time. Sometimes I just stayed home and read and relax, sometimes I went out shopping, sometimes I went for lunch with friends, it just kind of looked different from week to week.
The other really important thing that I did during our foster care time was see a counselor. There is a lot to process during the foster process, especially if you are a new parent. This can be a totally new world so it was really helpful for me to see a counselor every few weeks.
The last and most important thing is to make sure you have a good support system. Do you have friends that you could ask if they would be willing to babysit occasionally? Do you have family nearby that can help out? Are you a part of a church group or other community group that could help you?
We had a ministry that helped support us. We gave them a list of friends nearby that might be willing to drop off meals. As soon as we got our placement our ministry liaison sent out an email for a meal train and letting that list know we got a placement, and now would be a great time to support them and take meals.
Lastly, we also made sure to utilize babysitters within our support system, so that we could have date nights, and get away and have space to breathe. So, think about who could be in your community of care to help support you during your foster journey.
I know many foster families will have a Facebook group or even just a group text to put out requests for baby-sitters and such. This makes it easier on you because you just send one text, instead of several.
There are a lot of ways that you can take care of yourself before and during the foster journey, even beyond the ideas I’ve given you here. I think doing a little pre-planning is super important and beneficial, but also making sure that you are willing to adjust with the changes that will inevitably come.
I’m Carol Lozier, author and Clinical Social Worker. I specialize in adoption and foster care, and trauma, and DBT for kids and teens.