According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), over half of the children adopted from foster care were adopted by their foster parents. Many of these families are inspired to continue fostering other children after the adoption is finalized. Preparing for and adjusting to having new foster children enter the home is no small task for adoptive parents. There are numerous considerations parents need to have when deciding to foster after adoption. However, unfortunately, there is no “cookie-cutter” recipe for success as every child and family dynamic is different. So how do parents actually pull it off? We decided to do some informal research by asking parents and professionals what they see as the keys to their success:
- Ensure that your current family system is settled. Foster children need parents who can listen, connect, and be responsive in order to meet all of their needs. If you feel stretched thin or always “on your heels,” then the fostering process will not be as successful. This falls on you to know when your family is emotionally and behaviorally stable before adding more factors that can contribute to dysregulation. It is not only permissible but important that adoptive families are stabilized and attached prior to fostering again.
- Open and constant communication between the adults is vital. The adults need to be in constant communication so that confusion and mixed messages are minimal. This begins with the parents being on the same page as you set the tone for the household emotional climate. There also needs to be open and honest communication between you and the social worker throughout the fostering process. The social worker will oftentimes know very little going in; however, the sharing of what is known can help you more adequately prepare for and adjust to the changes ahead.
- Open and constant communication within the family. One parent explained that they sit down with their children individually ahead of time to talk about how they feel about bringing a child into their home. They also facilitate a weekly “talk around the table” where every person can say what he/she wants to say in a safe environment. She commented, “If the kids don’t feel comfortable, then the whole family isn’t comfortable.” She feels these family discussions are vital to their success as a foster family.
- Be flexible and unconditional. It is becoming clearer that expectations and assumptions are the undercurrents of disappointment and frustration for parents. Standards, values, and beliefs are very important for all families. However, it’s important to be aware of when they begin to inhibit the attachment with your children. Having an open state of mind will 1) enable you to be more connected and responsive as well as less frustrated in the face of difficult behaviors and circumstances; 2) assist in understanding your limits more fully and respecting them; and 3) model an invaluable and timely life lesson for everyone in the home on how to gracefully navigate during turbulent times.
- Brock Sellers, LCSW, is an APAC Family Support Worker
(Special thanks to Raye Livingston and Donna Crow, LPC for their contribution)