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Tips for Developing a Foster Parent Philosophy


Developing a foster parent philosophy is essential to a rewarding and empowering foster parenting experience. A common concern among foster parents is the emotional attachment to caring for a child. What happens when it's time for reunification with the biological family? How will I feel? Is it healthy that I'm emotionally attached to my foster children? Every foster parent has asked themselves these questions at one point or another. A foster parenting philosophy will help you cope with some of these feelings and answer your questions. A simple example of a foster parenting philosophy may be, "I want every child that comes into my home to leave better off than when they arrived." This simple statement provides a framework and standard for each child in your care. This blog post will address those concerns and help make your foster care experience successful. Here are some tips for creating a successful foster care philosophy.

Confessions of a Foster Parent and Foster Child Stigmas


In 2018, my wife and I casually discussed becoming foster parents. We were newlyweds, and she already had two children from a prior marriage. Life was great, and we were settling into our new lives comfortably. I'd thought about foster care and adoption through the years because I didn't have biological children, something that felt like a void in an otherwise good life. Admittedly, I didn't know much about raising or caring for children daily. Most of my experience with young people was through coaching high school and college athletics. Little did I know how much my coaching experience would relate to foster parenting.

We attended an information session to learn more about foster parenting and adoption. As I sat in the meeting, it became clear that being a foster parent aligned with my personal value system of helping children in need. After further discussion and much prayer, we decided to move forward with the process. Like many, I must confess I had preconceived notions about foster kids and their stigmas. For example, all foster kids have behavioral problems. Or that foster children have severe mental health issues. I had no idea what we were getting into. One late afternoon the phone rang. A caseworker from our agency called to ask if we'd be interested in accepting the placement of two siblings, boys, seven and nine years of age. The feeling in my stomach was one of excitement or maybe extreme nervousness. I'm not sure. After all, foster parenting is a huge responsibility that we were prepared to take seriously.

The initial meeting was casual and took place at a youth football game, and the boys were nothing like I expected. They talked a lot and even threw verbal jabs back and forth as brothers often do. I wasn't sure who was more nervous, them or us. After the game, the brothers came to our house for a post-game meal to get to know each other better. We laughed and talked while the boys ate pizza, lots of it. It was then we knew our monthly grocery budget would change. During our interaction, it became clear that my assumption all foster kids have behavioral issues was misguided. These boys were kind, grateful, and well-mannered. Any feelings or reservations about foster parenting these siblings subsided and turned to excitement. A few days later, the boys returned to our home for placement. Preparing the house for the boys was exciting. Let me tell you, assembling bunk beds put our marital patience to the test. We shopped, made sure the pantry was stocked with their favorite foods, and purchased small items to make their room feel more comfortable.

Another stereotype I had about foster kids was they all had mental health issues. While many foster care children experience emotional trauma on some level, it was nothing like I anticipated. The counseling sessions focused on adapting to a new environment and coping with change versus anything I had envisioned in my mind. Over time there was a noticeable difference in each of the boys and their comfort level within our home. They began to thrive academically and developed a healthy social circle through school and athletics. Don't get me wrong, there were many lessons to be taught and learned, and every day was a new adventure. Like the time we were in church on Christmas Eve only to glance over at the seven-year-old doing the floss while the worship band was playing. After correcting him, we all chuckled at the small memory none of us will soon forget. Going into this process, we didn't know anything about being foster parents; we stepped out on faith. There was no talk of foster parent philosophies or textbooks on "how to." We simply used care, compassion, and common sense to navigate our way through each day.

Whether you're a foster parent or looking to become one, I encourage you to shelve any stigmas or preconceived notions and approach each day individually and with an open mind, open heart, and spirit of purpose. If you'd like to learn more about becoming a foster parent or foster parent support, please email

Foster Parenting Support System and How to Build One


They say it takes a village to raise a child; this is even more true when building a foster parenting support system. It is essential when considering foster parenting to discuss changes in each area of your life and how to navigate specific challenges that will undoubtedly arise. One common challenge new foster parents face is developing a healthy support system. Taking foster children into your home is a significant commitment, and it is essential to have people in your inner circle who want to see you succeed and do whatever it takes to make that happen. This post will explain building a support system for successful foster parenting.

When building your foster parenting support system, family and friends are the most comfortable place to start. Talk with your immediate and extended family members and share your newfound passion for becoming a foster parent. Explain that you are forming a support system of people you can rely on in times of need and ask if they would be comfortable helping you if needed. Parents, siblings, and grandparents often are very supportive and willing to provide support where needed. These established relationships offer absolute comfort and familiarity, for example, when you may need temporary child care for a few hours. These individuals can serve as a strong foundation for your support system.

Relying on a church family or faith network is another strong group that will lend reliable support to a new foster family. Church parishioners are generally trustworthy and want to help those in their flock. They are willing to lend a hand in certain areas, for example, donating clothes, food, and other household necessities to help care for a child. Many churches also offer child care and after-school programs for working parents and may serve as an alternative to expensive daycares.

It's not uncommon to find strong support in your social network. Groups like youth sports associations offer like-minded people that may have similar daily schedules. If you have biological children in sports or extra-curricular activities, chances are you already interact with these potential supports, and there may be friends you can lean on if needed. For example, you can borrow rides to and from practice or buy used sports equipment instead of new ones. Building your foster parenting support system with families in your social network can provide great convenience.

Lastly, there may be a particular co-worker or two that you are close with and feel comfortable adding to your support system. Use your best judgment to determine if someone is trustworthy of this responsibility. Most full-time workers spend as much if not more time with each other than with their biological family, so having a co-worker babysit or look after a foster child in your care could be a comfort level. It is essential to wisely choose the individuals in your support system and have open and honest discussions about what it means to be in this role. Your role as a foster parent is vital to the care and development of a child, but you do not have to carry the responsibility alone. Assemble a great support system and learn to lean on that system when needed. It will make your experience as a foster parent more manageable and rewarding. To learn more about becoming a foster parent, contact us to request information.

I Have a New Foster Child; What Should I Do First?


So, the day has finally arrived. A new foster child has arrived in your home. As much as this is a dream come true, the nerves may set in a little. That is ok, and it shows an understanding of the importance of this special event. The first couple of days can make a big difference for the addition to your home. We gathered this post's ideas from two articles: Six Ways to Help Your Foster Child Adjust and How to Make Your Foster Child Feel at Home.

An important thing to remember is that the child coming into your home has experienced some trauma. Just the fact that the child is forced from their family is traumatic in itself. Other situations they have experienced or witnessed can have an impact as well. The urge to hug the child as a way of welcoming them may seem overwhelming. This experience may be a happy time for you but a scary time for them. The child does not control what is happening and is now in an unfamiliar house with unfamiliar people. Interact with kindness and try to understand how they are feeling. Allow the child to guide the interaction within reason. Creating a safe surrounding for the child, physically, mentally, and emotionally is essential.

As mentioned earlier, this young person is in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Introducing yourself, other family members, and pets may be a great starting point. Then take the child on a tour of the house and use language that includes them. For example, you may tell the child, "This is the dining room where we will eat our meals." This simple explanation includes the child and will help them to feel comfortable. Spend a little extra time in the child's room and let them look around a little bit at their new space.

After the tour, ask the child if they are hungry or thirsty. If not, providing a small snack may be beneficial. This time is an excellent opportunity to ask what kind of foods they enjoy. Planning meals together gives the child a sense of control.

Take this opportunity to explain healthy eating and the importance of including all food groups. Do not stress if their food choices are limited or change as this is an area a child may try to control since many things are happening that are out of their power.

Another topic to discuss is their bedroom. Ask the child what they think about the space and what can make things more comfortable. If the child's requests are reasonable, plan and implement those things. Also, this is an excellent time to talk about clothes. Sometimes children come to your home with no extra clothes or supplies. Plan a shopping trip to get the needed items. Within reason, allowing the child to make decisions and choices can go a long way with their safety feelings.

Eventually, within the first day or two, a discussion of the rules needs to occur. Keep them simple so that the child can understand the expectations. Creating structure is essential but exercise patience; this may take time, and the child may come from a home with no rules. Give them time to acclimate to their new environment. It is a good idea to decide what structure may have some flexibility, at least in the beginning. For example, eating dinner with everyone in the family may seem commonplace to you but could be a new experience for the child. One that may make the child feel uncomfortable. This rule may be a task the child can follow with patience and time once their comfort level increases in your home.

Communication is vital and not always easy to establish and will require patience and understanding. The child may not initially talk or share a lot with you, or they may tell you everything in an endless loop of stories. If they are not talking, let them know that you are there when they are ready and take the time to listen actively. What they share may not seem important to you, but they are sharing, which is a step in the right direction.

This approach with every placement will lay the groundwork for a successful and happy experience. There may be other challenges down the road but taking the time to acclimate a foster child into your home is an investment that will benefit all involved and ensure a successful start to the child's experience in your home. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent through Lifespan Family Services, please contact us for information.

The Characteristics of Foster Kids and What Makes Them the Real Superheroes


When we think of people who become foster parents, specific adjectives come to mind: generous, kind, thoughtful, loving, and the list goes on. Some might even use the word hero, and understandably so. Foster parents are often the saving grace when a child requires temporary or long-term care, but the true heroes are the foster kids. Think about the characteristics that describe our favorite superheroes. Words come to mind like extraordinary, intelligent, resilient, and tough. These are the same characteristics of children in the foster care system.

One way foster children remind us of superheroes is their extraordinary resilience and ability to adapt to change. What is resilience? According to Dr. Alan Ravitz, MD, MS, from the Child Mind Institute, resilience is the attainment of desirable social and emotional adjustment despite exposure to considerable risk. For example, when Camden arrived at the Miller household, his third foster placement in nine months, he was nervous about entering a new environment with new people and expectations. Still, the resiliency Camden developed through his prior experiences allowed him to acclimate to the home in a relatively short time. He developed a bedtime routine, including his favorite book and a quick prayer that provided absolute comfort and familiarity.

Another example is when nine-year-old Ellie shared her school lunch with a young girl sitting at the same table. After noticing the girl didn't have much food in her bag, Ellie offered to share items from her brown-bagged lunch. A teacher standing nearby witnessed the act of kindness and mentioned it to Ellie later in the day. Ellie said she understood what it feels like not to have food and "didn't want another kid to feel that way." Ellie explained that her foster mother said sharing is a way of showing compassion and goodwill towards others.

Stories like these fill the foster care system and resonate with those considering becoming foster parents. Good foster parents play an integral role in the nurturing and development of kids in the system. They provide a certain level of "gap insurance" until the child reunifies with their biological family. Compassion for children and providing a safe and loving environment are essential to a successful foster parent. Children in foster care generally are pleasers and aim to make their foster parents happy, but this also comes from a certain level of trauma they've experienced and the fear of being moved to another living environment.

Superheroes always find a way to overcome adversity, only to rise and conquer in the end. They carry the same superpowers that allow them to navigate day-to-day challenges and experience success while in foster care. With that said, even superheroes need help sometimes, and as a foster parent, you can support a child and help conquer the struggles of foster care. If you're considering becoming a foster parent, contact LifeSpan Family Services of Pennsylvania at (814) 246-2125 and speak to a foster family recruiter to learn more.

Five Questions to Ask Before Foster Parenting.


Are you considering foster parenting but don't know where to start? According to Pennsylvania State Family Resource Association, there are approximately 13,000 - 15,000 Pennsylvania children in the foster care and welfare system. Foster parenting is a big decision and comes with great responsibility. Maybe you've considered helping children in need, but the thought of taking a child (that is not your own) into your home and caring for them can seem both exciting and unsettling.

We'll look at five questions you should answer that will help you decide if becoming a foster parent is right for you. The first question to ask yourself is the root and most crucial.

  1. Do you have a heart for helping children?

Helping children sounds excellent. After all, who doesn't love kids? If you're passionate about the well-being and development of young people, you have the foundation to be a foster parent. Caring for children, in general, is a daily drill, even more so with foster children. Often, foster kids are stigmatized and unfairly labeled as troubled or having behavioral issues. Looking through these stereotypes and seeing the kids for who they are will help make your foster parenting experience a positive one.

  1. Does your lifestyle mesh with the demands of foster parenting?

Are you at the ball field three nights a week with your biological children, or do you spend quiet evenings at home reading a good book? Having a foster child in your home full time may adjust your household and daily routine dynamics. These children are involved in sports and after-school activities, and it is essential for consistency and stability they continue in these activities while in the foster care system. Often, foster children have court-ordered visits with their biological family (Sometimes multiple times a week) and must be transported by the foster parents. Does this fit into your schedule? Most foster parents work full time and need child care assistance. There is help in terms of daycare and after-school programs if required.

  1. Are you and your spouse/significant other in agreement with fostering?

It takes a village to ensure a successful foster parenting experience. Taking the step to become foster parents isn't an easy decision but should include everyone in your household, including any biological children currently living in the home. Take time to have multiple conversations with family members and enable everyone to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Ask your children if they would be ok with having other children in the home. Ask what role they would play, maybe big brother or sister? Having everyone in the house on board to become a foster family will create an exciting and fostering environment.

  1. Is your home a suitable environment for children?

Do you have enough space to take a foster child into your home? Chances are, if you have children currently living in your home, you've taken the necessary measures to ensure your home is safe and reduce the risk of potential accidents. Children of all ages need physical activity and exercise. If you desire to have school-aged children in your home, is there enough outdoor space, such as a yard or playground nearby, to play and be active? Your home doesn't need to be a castle. A quaint, clean, safe environment is sufficient.

  1. What is your WHY?

Foster parenting can be messy, challenging, and heartbreaking. It can also be rewarding, adventurous, and beautiful. Identifying your "why" will help you stay grounded during the ebbs and flows of the foster parenting experience. Everyone's why may be different. Maybe you and your spouse cannot have biological children, but there's a desire to be parents and provide a wonderful life for children. Adults who spend time in the foster care system often want to give back and offer a nurturing environment for others in need. The end goal is usually the same: to provide a safe, loving environment until children reunify with their biological families.

The rewards of becoming a foster parent far outweigh the challenge. There's no perfect time or ideal scenario for fostering parenting, but answering these questions will set you on the right path toward a successful foster parent experience.

Get more information about adopting a child or becoming a foster parent! Call (814) 375-1314.
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