The Call came when I was at work; the call to take in another foster child. Despite the fact that I had been a foster parent for over a decade, I still felt a level of anxiety rise within me. I was both nervous and excited about the placement of a new child in our home, and in our family. Sitting down at my desk, I began to ask several questions of the caseworker. How long would he be with us? How old was he? Why is he in care? Does he have any medical conditions? Are there siblings? These were all questions that I felt I needed to know before calling my wife and discussing it with her.
I shared all the information I knew about the child and his situation with my wife, and after a brief discussion, followed by a brief prayer, we both agreed that we were able to best meet the needs of this young four year old boy. I then called the case worker back, and told her that we were very happy to be able to have the four year old come and be a part of our family. A few hours later, after work, I quickly rushed around the small town I lived in, gathering what we needed for our newest family member. Clothes, food, a bed, shoes; these were just a few of the things that were needed for that first night. Meanwhile, my wife was sharing the news with our own six children that they would be gaining another brother. As always, my children had plenty of questions, and my wife patiently answered them to the best of her knowledge and ability. To be sure, our house was one of excitement and anticipation that night, as we all waited with anticipation.
As a foster parent, I have struggled trying to ease the anxieties and concerns of many children from foster care when placed into my home. There have been countless nights where my wife and I have tried to comfort a crying child; a child who only wanted to go home, yet could not understand why he could not. Making the decision to being a foster parent is a difficult one. It takes incredible commitment, unconditional love, and patience. After you determined that you are ready to begin, there are long hours of training ahead of you before your first foster child is placed in your home, and becomes part of your family. These hours of training will go a long way in helping you prepare for the many challenges that await you as a foster parent. But when you are finished, now what? What happens next? How do you prepare? What should you expect?
The arrival of a new foster child in your house can indeed be a time of excitement, as well as anxiety. The phone call from a caseworker asking if you would like a foster child placed in your home can leave you in a state of apprehension. It is often a time of questions, from you and your family, as well as from the foster child. For the child coming into your home, it is especially an intimidating period. It is important to remember that this new foster child is being moved from his own family and his own home, against his wishes, to a strange home, and to an unknown family. It is a time of fear and uncertainty for him, and often a time of deep trauma. While each child is unique, it is difficult to predict how each new foster child will react to this sudden and extreme change. Yet, with a little preparation and planning beforehand, you can ease the stress that is sure to occur in this transition a little.
Perhaps you have been a foster parent for some time now, or perhaps you are preparing to take your first foster child into your home. After all, each time a new foster child comes into your home, you are certain to meet with new challenges, as each placement is unique, just as the child is, as well. Every placement will be different from each other, and it will not become routine. You are sure to have surprises from time to time, and some placements may even be unsettling. Preparation, a welcoming smile, and the gift of time will help your family and your foster child during this time of transition.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDx Talk presenter. Dr. John is the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute. He and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several books, including The Foster Care Survival Guide and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, and NBC, FOX, CBS, and PBS stations across the nation. He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.