The Reality of Foster Care: Challenges of Foster Parenting, Tips, and Solutions

Children need families, that’s a fact. Unfortunately, the foster care system faces many challenges that make providing children with adequate parents and loving homes tough. Typically, the desired outcome of foster care is to reunite the child with their biological parents after resolving the issues that caused the removal of the child from their home in the first place. But whether or not the children eventually reunite with their parents, many of them are likely to spend long periods of time in foster care awaiting permanent living arrangements.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the Challenges of Foster Parenting, Tips, and Solutions, so if you’re a new foster parent or thinking of becoming one, read on.

Challenges That Foster Parents May Face

Being a parent is never easy, but being a foster parent can be even harder. Removing a child from their home and placing them in foster care is never an easy experience. What makes matters even more challenging is that many of these children have suffered a form of abuse, mistreatment, or neglect and so it comes as no surprise that a large number of children in foster care have behavioral, emotional, physical, or developmental problems. The good news is, most children show remarkable resilience and willingness to grow and thrive when placed in the right home. However, you need to be prepared for the reality of the situation and the struggles you may face. Here are some of the most common challenges and how you can overcome them.

Managing Challenging Behavior

Foster children have special needs and complex backgrounds. Sometimes, to deal with what they’ve been through, foster children project these unfulfilled needs in the form of self-destructive, hostile, and unsociable behaviors such as losing their temper, inflicting self-harm, refusing to compromise or communicate, and running away from home.

You need to understand the reasons behind the child’s behaviors in order to help them heal and overcome their past trauma. Remember that their attitude is likely a reaction to painful events that happened in their previous home. Their past trauma and abusive relationships can manifest in the form of physical or psychological issues, lack of self-worth, and abandonment issues, all of which can make it hard for children to move on with their life. Although every child is different and should be treated as such, as a rule, you’ll always need to be patient and prepared.

Understand the Child’s History

Most likely, a child entering the foster care system is coming from a situation that may have consisted of severe neglect, ongoing abandonment, or abuse, to name a few. Children can sometimes react to these situations by acquiring behaviors that they copied from their parents or developed as a way to deal with their trauma. This can manifest through behaviors like:

  • Withdrawal and self-isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Total disregard of rules and consequences
  • Physical aggression
  • Anger and verbal aggression
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Difficulty communicating and connecting with others
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Self-blame
  • Lack of trust

Because these children didn’t come from a stable and secure environment, they’re likely to display one or more of the previously mentioned behaviors. To build a relationship with them, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of your child’s history. Having all the background information makes you more competent as a foster parent and allows you to find the right approach for your child.

Create a Safe Environment

As a parent, your ability to create a therapeutic environment for the child in which they can succeed and thrive is all that matters. Before you react in a particular situation, it’s important to think about the child’s background to understand what triggers them and ensure that you’re responding appropriately. The following are basic skills that can help you successfully respond to situations while being proactive.

  • Patience and a calm tone
  • Use of positive rewards for good behavior
  • No sarcasm or physical punishment
  • Understanding, empathy, and an open attitude
  • Clear rules, expectations, and consequences
  • Implementing firm boundaries
  • Consistency in rule-implementation and consequences

When you provide your child with the security, warmth, and structure, you’ll get emotional reciprocity from them after an adjustment period. In addition to being understanding, successful foster parenting is about setting firm boundaries in a manner that’s strong enough to establish stability and security, yet gentle enough to appeal to the child’s emotional needs and developmental stage. Following through with your words is also critically important. This teaches the child that they can trust what you say. By implementing positive and consistent parenting techniques, the child will feel safer in their new environment.

Get Support

If you persevere through the problematic behaviors, the reward can be significant. However, we understand that it can be challenging to stay consistent and push through. We’re here to tell you that the occasional slip up is okay. You’ll witness peaks and valleys in your child’s behaviors before reaching a stable baseline. If you’re struggling or despairing, reach out to a licensed therapist or a support group for foster parents going through similar situations. This way you’ll ensure that regardless of how long it takes you to help them, you won’t be doing it on your own.

Lack of Resources

With the rising number of children in the foster-care system, states are struggling to recruit, train, and retain enough foster parents. This shortage of foster families is likely to result in children have to change schools, move homes, and be separated from their siblings. This lack of stability can result in the child’s alienation and it might deepen their trust issues. Yes, the foster care system is overpacked, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but there are a few things you can do to help.

Volunteer and Donate to Trusted Organizations

Some children enter foster care with few or no belongings. You can look for trusted organizations in your local area and see if they accept donations of money, clothing, books, toys, etc. Some organizations also allow you to volunteer to occupy the children’s time while they wait to be matched with a family so even if your house is full, you can still help other foster children.

Advocate and Educate

Stay informed about what’s happening with the child welfare system and advocate for resources that strengthen childcare in your local community. Inform others about the challenges foster children are facing, and sponsor or attend local fundraising events to raise awareness and funds.

Final Thoughts

Children experiencing crisis need our help. Opening your home to a child in need of temporary care is both a rewarding and challenging task. It might be difficult at first and it’ll probably take a long time. But by applying the previously mentioned techniques, you’ll eventually build trust with your child and help them be the best version of themselves they can be.
Don’t despair and remember to reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed.

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