Welcoming a Sibling Through Foster Care
As a foster family, the most important preparation for your family is to discuss what foster care is and what it means prior to deciding to become approved as a foster parent. When a child is placed into foster care, the goal is typically to reunite the child with his or her family when it is safe and appropriate to do so. You will want to help your children understand that the child placed in your home will be there temporarily.
Before a Child Moves into Your Home
Be ready for uncertainty. Being a foster family means that a lot of ambiguity and unknowns will enter your life. A child may move into your home for a short period of time (9 to 12 months); however, this child will occupy your heart for a lifetime. On the other hand, a child may enter your home through foster care and become a permanent part of your family through adoption. Be ready for this emotional uncertainty.
Be ready to adapt. Being a foster family means that everyone in the family should be willing to adapt to changes as they arise, sometimes without notice. Help your children prepare for changes such as needing to share everything from their bedroom to their time with you. You may also need to adapt the family rules to each child. Remind your children, prior to a foster child moving in, that he or she has had a very different life experience before coming to your home and may need different rules. Remind your children that you will always treat everyone with the same amount of love, but it does not mean consequences will always be the same for everyone in the home.
Be ready to show patience and understanding. When a foster child enters your home, he or she may feel confused and scared. They may yell or cry and may not want to play with your children. Prepare your children to be understanding of what the foster child is going through and try to help them not take it personally. Sometimes a foster child will exhibit behaviors in your home that he or she has not exhibited before. Remember, the past is an ingredient of the present; it is not a recipe for the future.
After a Child Moves into Your Home
Institute a family forum. This could take place at dinner, a weekly meeting, Saturday morning breakfast—whatever works best for your family. Make sure everyone in the home has the opportunity to be heard during this time.
Nurture your relationships with your children. Caring for a foster child can consume a lot of your time and energy at first. It is important to ensure you spend individual time with your children during the transition because it can be emotionally draining for them as well, and they need to feel your support.
Establish rules and boundaries for your home. These can be simple and concise, but be willing to adapt as needed. If age appropriate, let your children show the new foster child around the house. Your children can share the often “unspoken” rules, helping them develop a trust relationship with the new child.
Make time for your marriage. Establish a weekly “date night” or monthly getaway and stick to it. It will be easier to care for your children’s challenges if your marriage relationship is strong and nurtured.
The temporary nature of foster care can be emotionally challenging for a family; however, foster care is a great way to teach your children God’s love and compassion through actions. It may be helpful to have a “celebration” with your family after the foster children are able to return to their family. This will help your children understand this is what is best for their “temporary” siblings and what God’s plan is for them. Foster care will be the toughest job you will ever love.
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