Staff from The Foundling’s foster care and home-finding team contributed to this post.
Each child who comes into a foster parent’s home will have a different history and story. Wondering how to be a good foster parent to these kids in need? Whether you’re a first-time foster parent or have been welcoming foster youth into your home for a long time, there are a few pieces of foster care advice that apply to all situations.
1. Make them feel welcome. Involve them in family activities, strike up conversations, smile, and always offer a hug or a listening ear.
2. Learn how to have an “open” home. In addition to opening your home to a new child or children, you’ll also have a lot of new people in and out of your home, including agency staff and city and state workers. In another sense, having an “open” home means being accepting of new ideas and change, which come with the fostering experience.
3. Create a ritual. Whether it’s a weekly trip to the park, grabbing a slice of pizza down the block, or playing a game, have something that is a consistent routine for the child in your home. This can help them adjust.
4. Open up about yourself. The kids in your home are in a new place and they’re also living with a new person! Tell them about yourself, like where you grew up, what you like to do for fun, why you decided to become a foster parent — anything! By sharing your story with the kids in your home, they’ll soon be ready to share their story with you! It’s important to be genuine with the children.
5. Have patience. Because these children are away from their biological parents and have likely experienced some trauma, children may take a while before they open up — and that’s OK. Show compassion and always let them know you’re available to talk when they want to or are ready. Also, learn to let go of the things you can’t control related to things like court proceedings and possible other bureaucratic barriers.
6. Know what you’re capable of. It’s OK to sometimes say “no” if you are not able to manage a specific need of a child in foster care.
7. Call on community. Take advantage of all of the support you have as a foster parent. Here at The Foundling, we offer our foster parents 24/7 access to our team for help. We also have support groups, annual events for foster parents, and events for foster parents to attend with their foster children.
During the month of May, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. Here in New York City, The Foundling has about 700 foster children in our care at any given time.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of children are in need of temporary foster homes until they can be reunited with their parents and return to a safer, more stable home environment. To learn more about foster care and becoming a foster parent, visit The New York Foundling’s foster care page.