What To Expect When You’re Fostering: Emotional Challenges: Boosting, Bonding, and Breaking Down–Did you know that foster children are seven times more likely to suffer from depression than non-foster youth? (afs4kids.org) Foster kids without a dependable, consistent support system take a dramatic hit to their mental health. Learn how you can help lower the stats as a foster parent right here on Newsymom!
Being a foster parent comes with its fair share of challenges, and today, we’re talking about all the emotional challenges that come with foster care: for both children and parents.
For foster children, the moment they’re placed into foster care, the traumatic experiences they’ve been through are causing swirling emotions to rage within them. Combined with a lowered self-worth and inability to control their current situation, each child becomes susceptible to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other major mental health issues.
As a foster parent, you’re experiencing quite the breadth of emotions as well. You decided to jump into fostering and anxiously sit by your phone, waiting for your first placement! However, there’s more to it than sheer joy…
Emotional Roller Coaster of Foster Children
Depending on their ages, your children likely have awareness of what’s happening to them: they’re being taken from their homes, friends, and family and put into an entirely new scenario. New homes, new schools, entirely new people are in their lives. Your foster children have no control over what’s happening to them, and as they’re placed from one home to the next, their self-worth is plummeting.
Here’s why – They’re in a cycle of experiencing these emotions the longer they’re in the system with someone who isn’t their consistent, supportive parent:
Hope – They’re hopeful they’ll find a family that wants them! “I think this family is the one!”
Fear – As they’re onto the next placement, questions pop up like, “What if no one wants me?” or “What if it’s going to be like this forever?”
Anger – They start acting out, breaking rules because they’re scared or missing their family.
Depression – They become quiet and sad.
Apathy – They become indifferent, cold, or uncaring. The foster child feels like, “What’s the use?” They feel like they can’t trust anyone and have issues with attachment.
With all their traumatic experiences, 80% of foster children will have significant mental health issues, compared to only 18-22% of the general population. (Mental Health and Foster Care, NCSL) This is why it’s so important for each child to have equipped, committed foster parents who build those bonds of trust!
And… The Waves of Emotion Pummeling Foster Parents
On the other side, foster parents are catching the waves of their own emotions! Becoming a foster parent is such a lengthy process, so getting the call of their first placement has them seeing the moon and stars. However, if you’re considering becoming a foster, here’s some of the top emotions you’ll go through:
Excitement – Getting your first placement has you feeling on cloud nine. All the months of preparation, training, and interviews have led to this very moment!
Fear – You become terrified of the unknown. Everything about being a foster parent is about navigating the unknown. You don’t know the difficulty of your foster kids or their birth parents or if you’ll be able to handle it all!
Shock – It would be a surprise if foster parenting DIDN’T shock you. That seemingly quiet child acts up and shocks the heck out of you. That cute little baby keeps you up at all hours of the night. Things are not what they seem!
Frustration – You’re frustrated when your child acts out. Your case manager or judge or your foster child’s birth parents are EXTREMELY frustrating.
Regret – In the midst of all those emotions, you might start to regret your journey of fostering. Being tossed around by attorneys, judges, and case managers while dealing everyday with your foster children’s emotions may have you in tears.
Gloom/Depression – You’ll likely feel numb when your foster child is reunited with their birth parents. After spending all that time, pouring your love and care into their child and getting nothing in return… it hurts.
Before you start to regret your decision, know that there is support for you as a foster parent! Your community is chock full of support groups to speak out. Just like the children in your care: You are not alone!
A tip for those moments of frustration: Scream in your pillow, unwind at your local coffee shop (or bar), and care for yourself to gain confidence knowing you can do this. Reach out to those you trust to help you let off the steam and gain a new perspective on your situation!
There are many reasons to become a foster parent, but the most important one is to share love and support with a child in need! To learn more about becoming a foster parent, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call (330) 364-8882, or follow COAD4Kids-New Philadelphia on Facebook.