Foster youth are very diverse individuals because they come from many unique backgrounds and cultures. I personally believe being a foster parent takes a lot of responsibility and patience. They have to make sure the children's needs are being met, learn to adapt to any physical or mental disabilities as well as the emotions of the youth. Let's face it, being a parent in general is not always easy and being a foster parent can be even more challenging. There are some foster parents who understand what it takes to be a foster youth's parent and there are some who just do not know at all. Being a foster parent is what can impact a foster youth's life dramatically either in a positive or negative way. Despite the many challenges you may face as a foster parent, in the end, it can be very rewarding. With that being said, there are many aspects that make a foster parent good; however, I will only be talking about three of them.
One of the aspects that I believe makes a good foster parent is being inclusive with the youth. Theses youth already face the problem of being abandoned or neglected either from previous homes or from being with their biological family. When I say inclusive, I mean involving them in making decisions. It may be harder for the younger ones, but even something as little as asking them what they want for dinner or for lunch can make a difference for them. Asking them what they would like for dinner or lunch allows them to have a voice and lets them know you care what they think. Something like having them set the dinner table lets the foster youth know you care about them and it can make them feel like they are more part of the family. It doesn't make them feel like an outsider. For older youth, it may also be difficult. However, something like asking them questions such as "what do you think is a reasonable curfew for you?" makes them also feel more involved and understood. If you think about it, if you tell a youth to be home at 10 pm, they are going to find ways to go around it and possibly get into trouble. So, when you include them in making these decisions, they are less likely to be rebellious and listen because they are receiving the chance to have a voice. Personally, I was in a kinship care placement with one of my aunts. She always included me in everything. One of the things that my aunt included me in when I was young, was having me set the table and clean up the house. It may seem like these are duties that are not fun, but from my opinion and perspective of a little kid, I was just happy I was able to help out and be included in decisions. Therefore, being inclusive with the youth is important; however, it is not the only thing that makes a good foster parent.
Another aspect that makes a foster parent good is being supportive. I believe being supportive ties into being inclusive. Support from anyone is very important for foster youth. As I talked about, very briefly, in my introduction, if you think about a typical foster youth, they move around and do not have a stable life. Since they do not have a stable life, it may be hard for them to have at least one person to support them. Without support from someone, it is hard to continue life with a positive outlook. The way I see it is if you have no support, how are you supposed to make decisions and or even have a healthy life. I believe when someone goes through life alone "bad" decisions can be made. Support can be anything from providing for them, attending events the youth are involved in and or providing an open ear. Personally, my aunt supported me by attending my sporting events and dance events. Whenever she attended my events, it made me happy and proud to be one of her "kids". My aunt struggled to understand the balance of my life of academics and extracurricular activities but never once did she not support my decision making. One thing she was not very strong in was being an open ear. As a child, I was very quiet and very rarely talked with my peers and family members. I often times clung on to my sister and aunt only because they were my only constant figures in my life. It would have helped if she spoke to me about what I was going through when I was a kid, because then I would understand she is someone I could turn to when I need to talk. However, we never did sit down and talk about what was happening in my life. It was hard to talk to her about any of my emotions or what was happening in the house. I did not express my opinion about my biological mother being in the house, I did not express how I felt about always having to put my home life before my academics. This took a toll on my self-control over my emotions; I never expressed my emotions. So, I would keep my emotions to myself and they would build up until I would get to a boiling point when I would blow up on someone. Not having that open ear offering to hear my opinions, affected me in the long run. I still struggle with this, but I've worked hard on trying to express myself more. All in all, being a supportive individual for the youth is important. This allows the youth to understand they don't have to go through this journey alone and it gives them a chance at a healthier life.
Along with being a supportive foster parent, being stable is also an important aspect to have. Stability is being able to not back down when the going gets rough. Being stable financially and emotionally allows yourself to be more prepared for what can be thrown at you. Think of it this way, if you do not have a stable life, how can you provide a stable life for an unstable foster youth? I think out of everything, a foster youth needs stability the most. With stability, you are able to provide the support the youth needs as well as be more inclusive.
These were just a few aspects that I believe a foster parent should have. Although being a foster parent may seem like a very challenging "job", it comes with "rewards". You get to provide a youth with a what is a stable life. You get to be the individual who can make a difference in this youth's life. You get to be the person the youth turns to when they need support. You get to be the individual the youth thanks for contributing to their success. All in all, you get to be the parent the youth never had. Therefore, being a foster parent is challenging, but worth the effort if you treat the youth well.