10 Tools For Foster/Adoptive Parents

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I am Kate.  We adopted eight children and fostered about fifty others.  This was over a period of several years.  We fostered and adopted all sorts of special needs, and behavior problems.

When we started fostering we had some rules, most of which we broke, but ended up with some very good tools that have served us to this day.  They are listed below and feel free to take or leave any part of them that applies to you.

Each of these tools on their own does not solve much at all, but using what amazing hubby Rog likes to call “the swiss cheese” analogy, which is layering all these rules, it seems to make a pretty good sense.  So here they are:

OUR 10 TOOLS  FOR FOSTER/ADOPT PARENTS

Rule #1:    Be a foster parent first.

This is the single most important thing to do.  If you don’t follow any of the other rules, do this one.

Rule #2:  Adopt kids younger than your biological kids.

If possible, do this as well.  This is not a hard and fast rule, and there are plenty of exceptions to this one, but our experience is that foster/adoptive kids younger than your own work best.

Rule #3:  Don’t be scared of families, or multiples.

The downside is that it’s more complicated, but the upside is that there is already accepted structure in place and it tends to work better if siblings are kept together, because there is already bonding.  If they can bond to each other, they can bond to you.

Rule #4:  Be prepared to accept emergency placements.

 Many times they come from a call from Child Protective Services after hours, or at least until midnight.  Our kids often woke up to find a new child had joined the family in the middle of the night.  We loved that aspect of fostering, and still miss it.

Rule #5:  Be really, really careful about overseas adoptions.

When you foster/adopt locally, you get to know the child before you make a commitment, and there are a lot of checks and balances along the way.  When you adopt from overseas, there is no trial period.  When the child is now in your home, it is too late to change your mind.

Rule #6:  You can get babies locally.

 If you are a Foster Parent.  Six out of eight of my adopted children came straight from the hospital at between 2 days old to nine weeks.  The nine-week babies were extremely premature and stayed in hospital for that time.

Rule #7:  Don’t expect them to be perfect.

Guess what? Your biological kids aren’t perfect, and even though you might be close, you aren’t either!  There are reasons parents get into trouble, drugs, alcohol,  or untreated Bi-polar or other disorders.  Often the parents are trapped in a cycle of poverty and cannot get treatment.  Some of these disorders can be genetic, but most of this is medically treatable.

Rule #8:  Discipline.

The single best thing to do regarding discipline is to stay one step ahead of your children.  If you do that, you can usually preempt issues before they escalate.   What is necessary is providing structure, consistency and firmness.  We require good manners, and try to keep enough of an eye of them to be able to head off issues.

As children grow to teenagers, that does become a little more challenging, but not impossible.  We now have car trackers, phone trackers, curfews all in place.  Of course, you may have the odd one who will be harder than the others, but when you do implement this tool from the beginning, it is much easier to deal with.

Rule #9:  Don’t be an island – get help!

The single most important thing we discovered about fostering and adopting was the need to get help, and get it early.  In Georgia there is a program called “Early Intervention” and I would expect there would be similar programs everywhere.    Also, join your local Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.

Rule #10: It’s great fun and immensely rewarding!

While this is a bunch of work, it’s the most rewarding thing we have ever done in our life.  Not only did we have the privilege to be a part of over 50 little lives, and give eight children a permanent home, we have been blessed beyond measure.  We have got a heck of a lot more from this personally than the children who came into our home.

These tools are now in a book form.  More about that soon.