“Even Superman had Foster Parents.”
Yes, he sure did and he was a super power hero of the world! By being a foster care parent, you have the power to change the course of a young person’s life forever. In our eyes, foster parents are angels, and as we celebrate National Foster Care month this May, we salute all foster care parents, who gives their hearts, their souls and their time to children in desperate need of some stability.
In a recent interview with an OzChild foster carer, Hailey, she had this to say about what it’s like being a foster parent.
“There’s just nothing else like it, it’s so rewarding, and every day is something different, something new.”
When asked why she wanted to foster, her answer was plain and simple, “I guess my heart is just bigger than my brain.” What an amazing women and there are so many people like Hailey out there.
One story really touched our hearts, which we thought we’d share with you. Back in 1996 Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer were just a typical family with two parents, three kids and three dogs. But one day, their lives were changed forever through a chance encounter. Jaci was an elementary-school physical-education teacher and she started handing out coupons to the local skating rink congratulating her kids on a job well done. One kid lingered around and gave her back the coupon explaining that he was in foster care, living in a group home and that no one would be able to take him there. Up until that very moment, Jaci had never even thought about the plight of these kids.
“My heart just broke,” as she said. She tried to find out more about the child and realised that his story was heart-breaking. This 10 year old boy’s father had abandoned him and his mom was in jail for drug charges. Fuelled by this, Jaci was driven to do something to help kids like him.
She did extensive research and found that this was a common story for many kids. The whole family got together and all agreed that they would become part of the solution and they began the process of becoming foster parents and then adoptive parents too.
Two years later the first children arrived, two sisters, ages 4 and 9, and a half brother who was 18 months. Since that day, more than 30 kids have lived in their home, and at this stage they’ve adopted nine kids. “Some kids stick around for three days until a relative can be found to take care of them, some for three weeks, some for six months to a year until the parents get things together, and for the rest of the kids: a lifetime,” said Jaci. “Our philosophy has always been that if a child is not returned to her parents or relatives or moved elsewhere by the court, then our home would be their final stop, their ‘forever home.’” What a truly inspiring story to really get us all thinking about helping out kids in desperate need.
So, what does it actually take to be a foster parent? Let’s dig into this a bit deeper.
What it takes to be a Foster Parent
Before going on a journey of becoming a foster parent, it’s important to know what it takes and how to go about being the best foster care parent you can be.
Once a child or sibling is placed in your home, you embark on a brand new journey that can last anywhere from an overnight stay to a couple of months or even a couple of years. Of course the first priority is the safety of the child, and as soon as this has been tackled and taken care of, the next important thing to do is to reunite the child with their birth parents. Just over half of all children who go into foster care return to their birth families.
Here are some important steps to follow when you open your heart to a wonderful soul to come into your home.
Always work with the Child’s Caseworker
It’s important to remember that all children placed in your care will have regular, court-ordered visits with their birth parents, as well as other adults whose care they were removed from and their siblings too if they aren’t placed together. Of course you need to work with the caseworker assigned to organise locations and times of visits. The court will decide whether these are supervised visits or not.
Most children who are placed in foster care, except for cases where there is extreme abuse, have the goal of returning home. You will play an important role in this to reunite the child with their parents. During this process the birth parents are given an extensive amount of help so that the foster child can go back to a home that is safe and secure, providing for their everyday needs.
In some cases reuniting families isn’t viable, and the court will get involved to terminate their parental rights or the parents might decide that they will surrender their legal rights. But, this doesn’t mean that a child is automatically ready to be adopted, this all depends on whether the rights of the biological parents have been cut off. When this happens, often you’ll find that the children are adopted by relatives, non-relative foster parents, which happen in most cases. The best interest of the child is always taken into account to make sure that there is attachment and that they will be well cared for. If either of these routes doesn’t work out, then other adoptive parents are found through adoption agencies. If you are willing and able to adopt the child that you’ve been fostering then you need to find out about the legal rights you have with regards to this scenario.
Meet the Needs of the Child
Your primary goal when fostering a child is to ensure that their overall wellbeing such as emotional, medical and educational needs is being met.
You might often find, that besides the basic needs of bringing up a child are being met, some of these kids will need some extra attention for example therapy to help them deal with previous traumas as well as any loss that they might feel. Children are generally removed from their families due to the fact that they have been subjected to abuse or neglect. These can include anything from physical, sexual, emotional abuse as well as neglect like not getting enough food or leaving kids to their own devices and having them look after themselves in many instances where they aren’t equipped to do so.
Your duty as a foster care parent is to work with the caseworker to see what their needs are and to meet these needs. You are generally responsible for the following:
- Medical needs.
- Day to day needs like clothing, food and education.
- Sleeping arrangements. Most of the kids are allowed to share bedrooms, but they have to have a separate bed. In the case of the opposite sex, they can only share a bedroom if they are under a certain age, which is mostly under 6, but it does vary. Some won’t be allowed to share bedrooms if there are any behaviour concerns.
- If you decide to go on holiday, you always need to check with the caseworker first.
Prevent Burnout and Make Time for Yourself
We admire all foster parents, as this is no easy job that’s for sure, as in the case of parenting too. It can be hard to juggle all the balls in the air. Make sure you take time out for yourself, as you could burnout. Taking time out for yourself will ensure that you don’t burnout, and you’ll be a better parent in all circumstances.
Another thing you need to consider is that a foster care child can be left with a babysitter who is at least 18 years old, but you will need to check this with the caseworker in your area as different rules may apply.
From Hardship to Hope
As a foster care parent, you should be applauded as you are helping a child through their darkest times. You are their hope when hardship hits them. However, so many children ‘age out’ of foster care by the age of 18 without being connected to a forever family. These vulnerable kids are at a huge risk of dropping out of school and landing up homeless, unemployed or landing up in the criminal justice system. But there are many foster care kids who have turned their nightmares into positive reality by setting up foundations to help build foster care kids and give them the much needed support they should get. They share their stories and hopes, which can spark hope in the child welfare system. You are part of that important journey that they take, and if you are considering fostering a child, you will change their lives forever.
As May is National Foster Care Month it’s the perfect time for all of us to follow foster parents’ example and begin to help light the way for children in foster care. They can have bright and successful futures.
By simply opening up your heart, looking a young person in the eye, and speaking an encouraging word you might change the course of that child’s life and give them hope for a brighter future.