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There are many attributes that contribute to making a great foster parent, most of which coincide with just being a great parent. To be a good parent it's important to be open and try to look at things from everyone's perspective. This is especially important as a foster parent. Although there are different types of parenting and some if not all of them "work" to some extent, when being a foster parent I would urge you not to take an authoritarian approach to things. Every youth in care has experienced trauma, otherwise, they wouldn't be in care. So when a youth acts out or misbehaves there is a deeper reason, most of the time, other than they are just trouble. So if they are constantly treated like they are just trouble they will never learn.

Based from my experience, hopefully I can give you, the foster parent, or fp to be, some advice. I was placed in kinship care with my aunt Karina the summer before my junior year in high-school. There are many things that come to mind when I think of her, and to me, she is the perfect example of what a great foster parent looks like. Some of the things that come to mind are patience, open-mindedness, strong, and fun. Patience is of the utmost importance as a parent figure. Foster youth tend to have severe trust issues and for a lot of them, it will take time to open up and trust the parental figure. It's important to give a young person time so they can feel at home and give you their trust. That being said, I understand that sometimes a youth isn't in a foster placement for more than a couple days. In those situations it's difficult, so just do your best to be hospitable.

Being patient requires the ability to look at things with an open mind. Look into why the youth misbehaved not what they did. The "why" is the most important part. Karina is amazing with this, and because of it, in the first year living with her I learned more about being a responsible adult then I had my entire life before. Whenever I broke rules or did things that were unsafe, she would first assure that I was safe and ok, then have a long conversation with me, asking why I did whatever I did. I remember one time I got caught shoplifting at Target and had to call my aunt to come pick me up. Just the look on her face was enough to show me that I really messed up, but the conversation we had at home was about 3 hours. I have not shoplifted since and don't plan to! Out of the whole conversation the most important piece was her asking me why I did it. Even if I gave a crap answer it still meant I was taking accountability for my actions, and you can't have a conversation with someone about their wrong doings if they don't take accountability for any of it. After the why she usually talks with me about how my decision affected me, and how it will affect the others around me.. Having these long talks really allowed me to think about the repercussions of my actions and change my behaviors based on that.

Another reason I look up to my aunt is that to me, she is the strongest person in the world. She gave up going to grad school and took on a hefty amount of debt to make sure that my sister and I had a safe and comfortable place to live. She had no previous experience as a parent figure and took on two kids in their teens without question. As much as I love her, at the start, my sister and I didn't exactly make her job easy. For the most part, that's how it goes though. Youth are not easy and youth who have experienced trauma are more often then not, hard to look after. If you want to be a good foster parent, being a foster parent needs to be your passion. We have a foster parent crisis because it's a hard job and it takes someone who is strong and passionate to do it well.

Lastly, be fun!!! It's important to make bonds and connect with the youth and having fun is the best way to do that. For me the most fun I have with my aunt is doing simple stuff like getting coffee and talking about politics and psychology. Just this little stuff has had a great impact on me because myself and many other foster youth have had a really rough time growing up. Any and all positive memories are things that will show us hope. Show that you care and take the time out of your day to make those memories with the youth and be that person that they can look up to and go to when they need it. Don't be afraid to be yourself, be open and just have a good time.

All of that being said, all around the country we are facing a crisis. We need foster parents, and we need good foster parents. Every single new, good foster parent has more than enough power to make a positive change that a youth will carry with them for the rest of their life. In some cases, it's a positive change that will save their life. The best thing about this is that there are no requirements to be a great foster parent other than being a responsible, caring adult with a passion for helping youth. So you can do it too!

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Jun 15, 2017 By Sabian Hart-Wall