Being a foster parent can be a delightful and satisfying adventure and will definitely be a difficult challenge that requires your full attention and patience. Even so and if your heart is truly into the adventure, it can be wonderful for both you and your foster child. There are many aspects to being a foster parent; but for now, let’s think a while together about a few of the behavior and adjustment concerns that may develop while the child is with you.
Your foster child comes to your home with her strong points and special problems. It is hard for any child to adjust to a new family; but for your foster child, it is extra tough. If her past family experiences had been positive and healthy, being her foster parent would be fairly easy. Loving her and giving her a chance to live in your home would be enough. It is sad but true that love and a good home are not enough for her.
Your foster child is with you because she (or he) could not stay where she was. Maybe she was abused. She may have been neglected. There might have been other problems that made it impossible for her to stay with her family. Whatever happened, she was not safe, happy, and getting her needs met. She now has more problems than most children.
Learning about her special problems is your first step. You will love her, care about her, and encourage her. That’s just the way you are. At your home, she also can count on help with her problems, whatever they are. She will get what she needs, whatever it takes.
Let’s think about children who are abused and neglected. Abuse and neglect cause lifelong problems. Being mistreated hurts children in ways you can see and in ways you cannot see. They suffer at the time and will have problems at later life–stages. Although the harm done may not be easy to see, it is there.
Here are some things that make it more likely a child will be abused or neglected. For each, think about why it makes abuse and neglect more likely.
For example, a child’s being under three–years–old makes abuse more likely.
Why would a baby be more likely to be abused than a twelve–year–old?
Another example may help. Child abuse is more likely in families where an adult abuses alcohol or drugs.
Why are children in homes where someone abuses alcohol or drugs more likely to be abused?
Here are some conditions that increase the likelihood of abuse or neglect. What’s your take on why these children have a higher risk of abuse and neglect?
• Child is under three–years–old.
• Child is hard to love.
• Child was abused before.
• Parent was abused as a child.
• Signs of abuse you can see such as bruises, burns, scars, broken bones, or broken teeth.
• Alcohol or drug abuse in the family.
• Child is aggressive or destructive.
• Child does not care if someone gets hurt or gets upset.
• Child is very cautious and uneasy around adults.
• Child gets almost no attention from parents.
• Parents are not consistent about what they expect from the child.
• Child is very withdrawn or quite passive around people.
• Child has a handicap or disability.
• Child is very hard to manage.
• There is a lot of family stress.
• People in the home are violent or hurting each other.
• Family is cut off from other people and does not have a support system or people who will help.
Now that you have thought about things that make it more likely for a child to be abused or neglected, think next about those children who have already been abused or neglected. Here are some problems children have after they are abused or neglected. How do you think abuse and neglect cause these problems?
• Slow physical development.
• Slow development of language skills.
• Slow social and emotional development.
• Learning problems.
• Poor coordination.
• Problems getting along with other children.
Next, you can quickly check to see if your foster child is having significant behavior and adjustment problems. Here’s how.
Does the youngster seem to be getting along well or do you see behavior or other problems that concern you? Trust your good judgement and experience. Think about your foster child and answer Yes or No to these questions. The questions you answer “No” show you where the problems are.
Is your foster child:
1. In good health and not often ill?
2. Usually energetic and interested in what is going on in his or her world?
3. Normally relaxed and comfortable with him/herself?
4. Self–confident in most situations?
5. Eating regularly in normal amounts?
6. Staying away from alcohol or other drugs?
7. Happy and in a good mood most of the time?
8. Well–behaved most of the time?
9. Managing his or her anger and temper responsibly?
10. Feeling successful most of the time?
11. Responsible and dependable most of the time?
12. Dealing well with most day–to–day stresses and pressures?
13. Making and keeping friends his or her age?
14. Involved with friends who you know and approve of?
15. Going to school regularly?
16. Doing well in school?
17. Finishing homework and other assignments on time?
18. Cooperating with teachers and others at school?
19. Involved in school activities and projects?
20. Talking with you and other adults about his or her activities, friends, and problems?
Now that you have answered the questions, how do you decide if your foster child has problems that need extra help? If you answered Yes to each question, your foster child is doing fine. If not, the child’s problems need extra attention. Talk first with the child to see what he or she thinks and feels about the problems. Also, talk about the problems with the youngster’s caseworker, case manager, or doctor.
Foster children have the normal issues and difficulties most children have but also have additional risks that result from being abused and neglected. These issues are compounded by the children being removed from the home and family they have always known. Being placed in your home, the home of a stranger, only adds to their trauma. But if you are up to the challenge and opportunity, Their lives will improve and their futures will be much brighter, as will yours.
Good luck and thank you for caring, for making a difference, for assuring safety, permanence and long–term well–being for a child.