Curious about becoming a foster parent and not quite sure if you have what it takes? You may already have the right qualities, simply from living your life!
When fostering, you will need to be able to support youth as they learn and grow. Having parenting experience is helpful when fostering, but not required. There are many other skills we look for in foster parents that show us you have what it takes to support kids in care.
Here’s the inside scoop from our staff who work with foster parents every day.
We’d like to share their top 5 qualities of great foster parents.
1. Ability to learn and grow from past experiences
Many people worry that their histories will prevent them from being a foster parent. You may be concerned about how prior legal convictions, divorces, relationship struggles, and poor decisions in their younger years will impact your ability to foster. However, our licensing specialists also consider you as a whole person and how you have worked through your past. The state of Wisconsin does outline what criminal charges prevent a person from becoming a foster parent. (See the state administrative code DCF 56.)
“Some people feel that they have to be perfect to qualify as a foster parent. In reality, acknowledging imperfection is a strong sign of a good foster parent, if there is a willingness to take each challenge as an opportunity to learn new ways of helping children grow and develop. Parenting can be difficult, and no parenting strategy works 100% of the time. Each kid and each situation is different and requires flexibility, creativity, but most importantly a steady adult that can offer caring and concern unconditionally.” ~Katy, Administrative Coordinator
2. Having a sense of humor
“It’s important to take the work of helping children to overcome past trauma seriously, but not to take yourself too seriously. We can only do our best, we make mistakes and learn from them, and we need to bring a great sense of humor and lean on others who understand to get through the tough times.” ~Valerie, Co-Executive Director
“Our most successful foster parents always keep their sense of humor and find joy in the little things/accomplishments. They recognize the importance of a strong team to wrap around our foster youth and are engaged team players.” ~Rachel Co-Executive Director
3. Having experienced and processed past grief and loss
You may not realize it but your heartaches and losses can make you more relatable to youth who have experienced trauma. The experience of being in foster care is filled with losses for youth. This can include loss of community, separation from family, loss of familiar sights and cultural experiences. Foster parents also go through their own continual grief and loss process as their children grow.
“Grief, loss and hurt feelings will happen. Children can come and go, stay for years, be reunified, adopted, age out, etc. However, a great foster parent will continue to be steadfast and consistent showing their commitment to love these children through each and every hardship. A great foster parent has the ability to not take things personally and reflect on the child’s progress during the time a child was in their home. Healing from grief/loss is a journey, without time limits, and can happen in the smallest of moments. Often, previous foster children will reach out to foster parents when they are older and more mature to share their appreciation for their past. As one foster dad noted, this is just like any other adolescent growing up.” ~Erika, Social Worker
4. Curiosity and openness
Foster parents are challenged to learn and develop new skills to meet children’s needs. Having a desire to learn more about what is unknown or unfamiliar will benefit you as a parent. You will gain new skills and create a home environment that is welcoming and supportive of all children and families.
Family Works expects foster parents to be open and welcoming to children and families regardless of race, color, ancestry, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital status, disability, gender identity or Veteran status. We need our homes to be safe spaces for all children.
“Our most successful foster parents are open-minded and tolerant. They are inclusive and affirming of a wide-range of social identities.” ~ Amanda, Southern Licensing Specialist
5. Being flexible and open to change
“Most of all, I think it’s important for a foster parent to be flexible and willing to meet a child ‘where they’re at.’ Sometimes we see children grow the most when we allow them the time they need to adjust, feel their feelings, and process through their past experiences all while providing security, predictability, and consistency.” ~Shanna, Northern Licensing Specialist
We hope this list helps you recognize how you might already have developed the qualities to be a great foster parent. Being a foster parent is tough but rewarding work.
We would love to have you join us in this journey! A child needs your unique skills, perspectives, and life experiences. You could make the difference to a child going through a tough time. Reach out to a licensing specialist (see below) if you would like to learn more, or apply to be a foster parent today.
If you would to speak with a licensing specialist please contact:
(608) 233-9204 ext. 232