What does it take to become a foster parent? Really, the same qualities for effective parenting: kindness, patience and a sense of humor, for starters.
Still, choosing to become a foster parent is a big decision, one that takes preparation and resilience. Of course, all foster parents in Texas must meet certain requirements, such as having a reliable source of income and passing a criminal background check. At Upbring we understand that foster parents bring their personalities, lifestyles and past experiences to the role as well.
The White family knows this firsthand. They heard about Upbring from friends and were drawn to fostering once they learned how many children in their community needed homes. Joining them on their fostering journey were their two biological children, Abbie and Jackson. Their fostering experience has been marked by a few surprises, as well as endless joy and love.
Wondering if fostering is right for you? Here are five ingredients for foster parenting success.
- You have realistic expectations. Becoming a foster parent is a fulfilling, transformative experience. It’s also really hard (as is all parenting!). Some moments will be stressful and frustrating. An optimistic outlook—with a side of patience—will help you remain calm under pressure. A strong support system helps, too.
This speaks to why you must go through critical and thorough training to become a foster parent. We want foster parents to be fully prepared before kids are placed in their homes. The Whites liked this about fostering with Upbring Foster In Texas (FIT), as it made the whole process feel less overwhelming. “They let you go at your own pace,” Garrett attests.
- You’re open-minded and inclusive. FIT works with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)to place thousands of children every year. We want to give all of them a safe place to land. So keep an open mind as to what your foster family could look like—from the child’s age and gender to their race and ethnicity.
When the Whites became licensed to foster, they envisioned welcoming one child, perhaps an infant or toddler. Imagine their surprise when their hearts led them to foster a set of three siblings ranging from 1 to 3 years old, and eventually a 13-year-old (who is now their adopted son). “We laugh about that now, because God had completely different plans for us,” notes Sarah.
The wider range of children you’re willing to parent, the more likely it is that a child will be placed in your home. When you foster with Upbring, you will receive comprehensive training on everything from understanding their stage of childhood development to accommodating any special needs. We’ll have you covered on all fronts!
- You’ve got room for one more. Whenever possible, we want to keep siblings together when they enter foster care. Children in foster care have already had to say goodbye to family members, so it is important to preserve sibling bonds. Research has even shown that siblings placed in foster care together often feel more secure and can help each other adjust to their new family and community.
This is among the reasons why the Whites said “yes” to fostering that group of three young siblings. Sarah marveled at how the children’s tight bonds help them navigate their new experience. “They had each other, and they knew how to comfort each other. Seeing them heal together was the most beautiful thing,” she recalls.
If you have the ability to welcome two, three or even more children, it could mean a world of difference to a larger family in need. And this doesn’t mean you need to live in a mansion! Apartment or house, renter or homeowner—all you need to become a foster parent is adequate space for each child.
- You can balance fun and routine. Kids in foster care are, well, kids! They both thrive on consistency and love to play and use their imaginations. As a foster parent, you can combine the best of both worlds to provide a much-needed sense of normalcy. Consistent mealtimes and bedtimes, shared hobbies, weekend soccer games, impromptu dance parties in the living room—it’s all part of the childhood experience.
The Whites particularly enjoyed seeing their teenage foster son, Bentley, settle into the household and form positive relationships with Abbie and Jackson. “We saw the layers peel away. He wasn’t living in fear anymore, and he could just be himself,” Sarah recalls of Bentley’s journey. Working through past trauma can be challenging, she adds, but “That is where growth and healing happen.”
After spending two weeks with the Whites, Bentley told them it was the first time in his life he had felt a sense of home. Garrett and Sarah felt the same way—and that’s when they knew they were destined to become a forever family.
- You’re willing to honor their roots. The primary goal in foster care is for the child to eventually be reunited with their birth family. That’s why, as a foster parent, it’s extremely beneficial to maintain an open relationship with your child’s biological parents and family members.
The Whites chose this path from the start when they fostered the three young siblings—right up until the day they were reunited with their birth parents. Sarah and Garrett remain in touch with the children and even babysit from time to time. “It was one of the hardest and most beautiful days of my life, seeing their family come together again,” she says.
Foster care, by definition, is temporary—but know that you will always share a special connection because you opened your heart and home, at just the right time. And the impact on the child’s life will be simply immeasurable.
There is no single script or mold for becoming a foster parent. But all foster parents have one thing in common: A strong desire to give children hope when they need it most. “It’s just really important that you stand in the gap to show them love, even if it’s for a small period of time,” says Garrett.
Right now, thousands of children in Texas are ready to be welcomed into loving foster homes. Ready to take the leap? Fill out the Upbring Foster In Texas interest form and we’ll be in touch!