As a foster parent, you have the opportunity to provide assistance and security to a child in crisis. Fostering requires significant dedication, because often the foster child has experienced harmful and hurtful situations involving his biological family. Fostering a child also becomes more complicated if you have your own biological children in your home, because you must juggle both the needs of your biological children and the foster child.
Speak with agency personnel in charge of the foster case about issues with integrating the foster child into your family. Many programs provide support to families with professionals such as social workers, counselors and psychologists. These professionals have specialized training that will help you understand and meet everyone’s needs. Several factors exist that will determine the integration extent of the foster child into the family, according to social worker Judith Heidbuurt, author of “All in the Family Home: The Biological Children of Parents Who Foster,” published by the Foster Family-based Treatment Association. The age of the biological children, the age of the foster child and the experience and behavior of the foster child will have an effect on how children interact with each other.
Communicate openly with your biological children about the fostering, as appropriate for the children’s ages. Kids of middle school grades and older should have enough maturity to understand that you have brought the foster child into your home to give her a safe place to live because she needed one. Depending on the foster child’s history, the youngster might exhibit some degree of negative or disruptive behavior. Explain negative behavior to biological children by telling them that someone who feels hurt or scared often acts out negatively because she doesn’t know what else to do.
Use patience and consistency as you parent the foster child. The crises that occurred in the child’s life that necessitated foster care may have residual effects on the child’s emotional wellbeing and behavior. To overcome the traumas, the child will need unconditional love from foster parents. The child will also need firm limits and boundaries to teach him about acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Strive to parent both your biological children and the foster child as equally as possible, using similar standards and expectations for behavior. Encourage acceptance of the foster child by biological children; however, your biological children may not feel comfortable doing this. You may also meet resistance from the foster child, depending on her experiences and her situation with her biological family.
Some foster families fall into a pattern that either partially or fully secludes the foster child from the family.These situations often occur if the biological children and/or foster child are older or if the foster child exhibits negative behavior in the family. In these situations, enlist help from agency personnel to help you meet everyone’s needs.