Parenting any child is equally challenging and rewarding. However, the situations that place children in care — unsafe conditions, neglect, abuse, or parents who are unable to care for their children for various reasons — often mean that children in care may struggle more than their peers not in care. As a result, foster parents have unique parenting challenges.
In 2021, more than 400,000 children and youth in the US were in foster care. Due to their circumstances, children in care experience some form of trauma. For example, they may have mental health issues or emotional, developmental, or learning disabilities. Additionally, they may have behavior problems.
Even if you’ve been a foster parent for a long time or think you’re prepared to take a child into care, there can be many surprises. You don’t necessarily know in advance their age and gender or how long a child might be in your care. Being prepared is more complex than having the space or necessary items to welcome a child into your care. Sometimes, it’s essential to have additional reliable support.
Foster parents play a vital role in helping children find safe and stable homes. In the US, various supports are available to help foster parents provide safe, stable homes for children who cannot live with their birth families.
Access to Caseworkers and Therapists Is Crucial
Placement in foster care can be disruptive and traumatizing for children, even if they come from abusive or neglectful situations. Initially, children face enormous adjustments when they go into care. It can be a significant issue even for children and youth with no other emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs. Caseworkers and therapists can help with fear, confusion, and feelings of abandonment.
While most traditional foster care structures provide caseworkers and therapists, they are usually responsible for multiple children. They’re also spread out geographically, making it difficult to provide the needed services to every child assigned to them. One of the significant differences between the SOS Illinois model of care and traditional foster care is daily access to on-site caseworkers and therapists.
Additional Resources for Foster Parents
The following resources offer support and guidance to foster parents to help them navigate the fostering process.
A nonprofit organization that supports foster parents in achieving safety, permanence, and well-being for the children and youth in their care.
Message boards and advice, particularly on at-risk foster youth.
Provides information and resources for foster or adoptive parents on raising or caring for a child with disabilities, including how to address and understand the child’s disability, a list of organizations focused on adoption and foster parenting, and information on finding support groups.
An online resource that can help foster parents find support groups near them because sometimes talking with someone with shared experiences is the best help.
A fact sheet focused on helping foster parents support LGBTQ youth. The fact sheet identifies the unique risks that LGBTQ youth face, how foster parents can help reduce these risks, and more.
Humans of Foster Care is a Facebook page that features posts from the foster care community, including stories from foster parents, caseworkers and youth in care.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. One thing that sets SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide that becoming a foster parent is not for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. Donations change lives! The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for thirty years.