Most of you remember learning skills for successful fostering and adopting during your foster parent training. These are invaluable skills that will help you to be better foster and adoptive parents. Refresh your memory with these twelve skills.
Know your own family. Assess your individual and family strengths and needs; build on those strengths and meet needs. Make sure you know how your own family feels about fostering and incorporate their opinions when assessing your strengths. As we know, it is not just the parents, or even the immediate family, that raises a child. Your parents, children, siblings and other relatives should be part of your decision to foster.
Communicate effectively. Use and develop communication skills needed to foster or adopt. Be an active listener. Give clear messages, listen well and use tone of voice well. Abused and neglected children may feel worthless and may think their emotions are not worthy of being heard. Parents must listen in order to help build positive self-esteem. This shows the child an important skill which may help them be successful in other relationships.
Know the children. Identify the strengths and needs of children and youth who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and/or emotionally maltreated. Knowing the child’s history will help in your quest to build on their strengths. You must know when their needs require more help than you can offer.
Build strengths and meet needs. Build on strengths and needs of children and youth who are placed with you. Do not accentuate the negative. Let them know what you find as their strengths and tell them often. Remember, strengths build positive esteem and needs can be met. Try to meet their needs and know when to turn to others for help.
Work in partnership. Develop partnerships with children and youth, birth families, the agency and the community to develop and carry out plans for permanency. You may be the person who teaches the birth parents the skills they were never taught, or the person who helps the agency decide when a different permanency plan needs to be made. Know your community resources.
Be loss and attachment experts. Help children and youth develop skills to manage loss and attachment. Remember, children separated from birth parents have difficulty trusting adults. They become frightened and confused easily. Take the time to become well informed on loss and attachment. The more informed you become, the better resource you are for your children and other parents.
Manage behaviors. Help children and youth manage behaviors. Foster parents need to use discipline methods that birth parents can learn to use, methods that do not put children at risk for more abuse if they return home. Remember your basic alternatives to physical punishment; ignoring negative behavior, reward positive behavior, taking away privileges, time out, and modeling appropriate behavior.
Build connections. Help children and youth maintain and develop relationships that keep them connected to their pasts. Assist the child in staying in contact with family members. If this is a healthy relationship, and supported by your agency, this will help the child maintain a sense of connection. Find local organizations that will include the child in cultural programs to maintain their heritage.
Build self-esteem. Help children and youth build on positive self-concept and positive family, cultural and racial identity. Accentuate each child’s strengths and their success as being part of your family. Encourage them to be proud of their cultural and racial identity. Model a positive attitude about your own identity.
Assure health and safety. Provide a healthy and safe environment for children and youth and keep them free from harm. Make your home a safe haven and ensure that all children feel secure, not threatened, in your home. Adequate food, clothing and shelter is essential in modeling how parents should care for a child.
Assess impact. Assess the ways fostering or adopting will affect your family. Talk to each family member privately to ensure that you know their feelings and can accurately make a decision on behalf of the family. You will want to look at the positive outcomes fostering or adopting could bring, as well as any negative outcomes that family members may expect.
Make an informed decision. Make an informed decision to foster or adopt. Include the entire family, including extended family, when deciding to become foster or adoptive parents. Genuinely listen to concerns and reply in a non-threatened manner. Discuss your family’s long term goals and how fostering and adopting may be a positive tool or negative force in those endeavors.