Lately, I have been running into more and more families who are entering the world of fostering because of need, not because they want to.
These families are finding themselves facing a kid who needs a home. Most of them are related to the kids. But, that’s not always the case–sometimes it’s a friend. It doesn’t really matter how it comes about. The fact is that there is a kid who needs a home and a family that wants to step in.
Kids do best when they can keep connections. So, keeping a kid with a relative or a neighbor or someone they know is good. But, these well-meaning families are unprepared. I think that pretty much anyone who takes on a non-bio kid is unprepared the first time or two around. And most foster parents have training and support and are going into it with some support. Relatives who get that emergency call have none of that.
When I am asked advice about these situations there are a few things I highly recommend.
1. Get your foster license. Going through the process of licensure will give you some training. You will form a relationship with the state or an agency. You may get to know other foster families (huge advantage!). And, you, likely will get more financial assistance for the child from the state if you are a licensed home.
2. Get the state involved. I know it’s tempting to avoid “the system”. And it’s scary to face the unknown. But, going it alone is a huge risk. Imagine you take your nephew in when your sister is dealing with the court system in regards to some drug issues. Six month later, he’s doing well and you’ve all adjusted.. Sister can show up and take him out of that good situation and throw him right back into chaos. Without the involvement of the state it can be far more difficult to get guardianship, it can limit your ability to make decisions, and financially, you are on the hook. If nothing else, foster kids here have excellent medical insurance. Yes, the system has issues, but they also can help.
3. Find some support. Get online and see if there is a Relatives as Parents organization in your area.. Ask a social worker for local groups.
This site had a ton of links, organized by state, that were just a click away.
Love is not enough. But, it is a good start 🙂