Summer is here! Here’s how to have fun with your foster children!

The sun is shining, school is out, and it’s time to have some summer fun. Get the whole family involved and make plans to spend some quality time together.

This time off from school is a great opportunity for you to connect with your foster child. These summer months are also critical for foster children, many of whom have moved around a lot during the school year. If they have fallen behind in their schoolwork, now is the perfect time to help them catch up.

Consider some fun activities that come with a side of education and learning. Many local museums and art galleries have special summer pricing for kids and families (and some even host free entry days!). Try out a history museum, and then follow it up with an outdoor trip to the park. Active learning!

If your budget allows, you can also consider summer camps for your foster child. These camps are a great way for foster children to socialize, make new friends, and learn new skills. They often come with fun outdoor activities, too, like swimming and hiking.

The warm summer months are a great chance to help your foster child experience brand new things. Take a trip to the beach, check out a baseball game, or go for a fun bike ride. These new experiences will turn into special memories for your foster child, and will help your relationship grow.

Remember that summer adventures don’t always have to be grand. Head to the library to pick out a few books on a rainy day. Hold a weekly movie night and eat some popcorn while watching your favorites. Work together to plant some new flowers in the backyard.

Need even more ideas?

  • Volunteer! Show your foster child the importance of giving back and connecting with their community.
  • Head to a local farm to pick fresh fruit. Bonus points if you cook something with them. Mmm raspberry cobbler!
  • Go for a campout. You can find a local campground, or set up a tent in your backyard. Roast smores, and take time to relax and look-up at the stars.
  • Play miniature golf.
  • Go to a drive-in movie (yes, they still exist!).
  • Go to the pool and lay out in the sun.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Feeling adventurous? Go zip-lining!
  • Have a picnic. Make the meal together and then head to a fun place to eat it!
  • Learn something new together: try out music lessons (and start your own family band!) or take a cooking class.
  • Join a summer reading club. This is a great way to keep your foster child reading and learning throughout the summer, and usually comes with a little prize when they reach their reading goals.

Remember that whatever you do, you are spending quality time with your foster child, and letting them know they deserve your attention. Have fun!

Becoming a foster parent: how to decide if it’s for you

Foster parenting is a big, but rewarding experience. Helping vulnerable children by providing them with a safe and loving home is a selfless way to give back and support those who need it the most.

If you’ve been considering becoming a foster parent, but still aren’t quite sure, there are ways to evaluate if it’s right for you.

Spend time with children (of varying ages): Volunteer at an after-school program or group home facility. Offer to babysit for current foster families (this is also a great way to help support them and give them some time away!). Work with your local foster agency to see if they need someone to watch the kids during their regular foster care or group meetings.

Take a class (or two!): Sign up for trainings or courses on children and child development. Learn more about parenting and adolescent growth. Many colleges and community centers provide classes like this. You could also check with your local foster agency for their offerings.

Make sure you’re financially prepared: Foster parents receive financial support from the state’s agency, but it is important that you are fiscally responsible and are able to support the current needs of your family, and the new foster child.

Know the rules: All states are different, so it’s important to check out what your state requires of you to become a foster parent. What is the age requirement? How many references will you need? What is the application process like?

Consider your space: Make sure your home is big enough to add another person, and check if your local agency has any size requirements for bedrooms.

Think about transportation: A new person to care for comes with a bevy of new appointments. Do you have reliable transportation to take your foster child to the doctor, to school functions, and to meetings with the foster care agency?

Assess your adaptability: Sometimes a foster placement comes with very little warning. Are you ready and willing to take on a child without much notice?

Be prepared to change someone’s life: Foster parenting fills a gap between what a child needs and what their family is able to currently provide. Children in the foster care system deserve love and care, and to know that someone is looking out for them. Having this in their life is transformational.

When you’re considering the foster parent route, don’t be afraid to ask questions. TFI Family Connections is always here to provide you with the help and support you need to make the best choice for you and your family.

Preparing your home for your foster child

So you’ve decided to become a foster parent. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey! But first: it’s time to get your house ready!

You don’t always get a lot of lead time when a placement needs to be made, so it’s good to be prepared, should the time come. You foster child is likely coming from a place of great transition, so making your home as comfortable and welcoming as possible will go a long way toward making them feel safe and secure.

First, be ready with the supplies. Depending on their situation, foster children don’t always have a lot of belongings. It’s a good idea to have at least a few essentials waiting for them when they arrive. A toothbrush, some toiletries, and a few clothing items (in varying sizes and genders) is a great place to start.

If you want to go the extra mile, put together a basket of goodies for your foster child. Their own cozy blanket, some age-appropriate toys and book, and other fun items are great ways to make them feel at home and cared for.

You can create another special welcome token by putting together a book of photos of the family, and let the foster child know you want to add new photos with them, too. Again, as foster children don’t often come with personal belongings, a memento like this can be very meaningful.

If you’re able to provide the foster child with their own room, get it ready before they arrive. Knowing that they have a comfy place to come home to that is all there own will mean so much to the foster child. You can decorate it yourself, or let them pick out a few things to help make it personalized for them. Let them know they are free to rearrange or organize it however they want.

Keep your fridge stocked with extra goodies and treats, and be ready for that extra belly you have to feed! Once they arrive, a great way to bond and learn more about your foster child is to ask them about their favorite foods. Have a special meal to welcome them to the house, and maybe have a special night of the week where they get to pick what’s on the menu for dinner.

Put together a binder with important information: family contact information, where the adults work, names of family members, house rules, etc. This is a great way for the foster child to learn about the house and your family.

Make sure the rest of the home is warm and inviting, too. Organize and clean the common areas to make sure your foster child knows they are welcome in the whole house. They should be able to feel comfortable hanging out as if it was their own home.

It can take time for foster children to fully settle into a new space and new family. Taking these first preparatory steps, though, will help the child know they are welcome and wanted in the home. This will help the foster child feel safe and at ease in their new surroundings.

How foster care can positively affect the children already in the house

A foster parent can provide countless benefits to the children they foster, but those benefits also extend to the other (biological) children in the house.

While bringing in a new family member certainly creates a period of transition, it also comes with the opportunity to complement and enhance your children’s lives.

Here are some other ways foster care can benefit your children:

  • They will learn the importance of giving back. You are showing your children how one person can make a difference in the lives of others. By seeing this, they will understand how they can support those in need and help others. It will also open their eyes to the needs of their own community.
  • They will learn compassion. By welcoming a new family member into the house, and learning their story, your kids will better understand the needs and trials of others.
  • They will learn how to share. They probably already know this one, but adding a new person to the house can create new opportunities to build on these skills and better learn to “play well with others.”
  • They will learn to model good behavior. If you have a set standard of rules and expectations in your house, your children will be able to act as a guide for the new foster child. This will allow them to be proud of their good behaviors, and encourage the foster child to follow suit.
  • They will learn there is enough love to go around. Love is infinite, and your children will see that they are capable of bonding and loving new people, and that you are able to love others without it detracting from your love of them.
  • They will become adaptable. Changes and additions to the family bring chances to learn how to roll with the punches, and see the positives in each new opportunity.
  • Your family will develop an even stronger bond. You’re all in this process and experience together, and your team will grow stronger because of it.
  • They will learn about saying goodbye. Although goodbyes are hard, this is not necessarily a negative. As fostering is not (always) permanent, when the child leaves the house, your child will have the opportunity to learn how to say goodbye, yet still love. They will be able to learn about grief and coping, lessons that are important for life.

Inevitably, fostering will impact your family. At an up-close-and-personal level, your children will be able to experience and develop their skills for empathy and understanding. They will learn that they are part of the foster process, too, playing a critical part in creating a welcoming and loving environment for the foster child.

Benefits of Being a Foster Parent

It’s true: fostering can provide a life-changing experience for the foster child. Welcomed into warm and loving homes, they are met with a safe and stable environment to grow and even thrive.

But what about the benefits for the foster parents themselves? Opening their hearts and homes means so much for the children involved, but it can also be a transformational time for the caregivers.

  1. Children in the foster care system have often experienced a trauma or hardship. Fostering gives parents the opportunity to provide a safe haven and support system for the children who need it most. You will be able to provide them with a consistent living environment that will give them the chance to work through difficulties and try to overcome obstacles. Helping during this trying and transitional period in their lives can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling for the parents involved.
  2. As a foster parent, you are not just providing love and care, but you are meeting a need. You are making a positive contribution to your community, taking care of a child who has been displaced from their home and needs a supportive caregiver.
  3. If you are already married and with kids, fostering a child can create a strong bond through a shared goal and experience. Working together as a family to welcome in a new addition will be extremely rewarding, and gives you the chance for everyone to build new, important relationships. You will also have the chance to create a strong bond with the foster child themselves– a bond that will last long after the child leaves your home.
  4. And whether you have kids or don’t, adding a foster child to your family will enhance your life in new ways. Growing in your capacity to love and care for a child will bring new meaning to your life.
  5. When you foster, you’ll learn a lot. Foster parents are required to take free classes and trainings to ensure they are well-equipped and prepared. These trainings will not help you become a better parent and caregiver, but will also make you more aware of the foster system and its needs, locally and beyond. You’ll also surely learn new skills that are transferable to other areas of your life, including intangibles like patience, compassion, and empathy.
  6. Fostering a child can create a positive ripple effect. Those in your circle and community might be inspired but what you are doing and want to do the same. If they aren’t able to foster a child directly, it might entice them to help out the foster care system in another way.
  7. If you are interested in adopting, the US Department of Health and Human Services has reported that fostering can provide a quicker route to adoption than other means.
  8. Although financial gains or rewards should never be at the top of the list for any foster parent, fostering does offer monetary allowances for your service and to ensure the proper care of the child. Substantial tax credits are also provided for foster parents.

I Can’t be a Foster Parent Right Now – How Else Can I Help?

While there are endless benefits and joys that come with foster parenting, it’s understandable that it’s not for everyone at every time. If you’re unable to foster a child right now, but still want to support the cause, there are a variety of ways to get involved by offering your time, talent, and treasure.

If it’s time you want to give, TFI Family Connections is always looking for dedicated volunteers to help support our mission and the children and families we serve. Volunteers can help throughout the year at one of our many events, serving on a planning committee, or taking part in the event itself. You can also volunteer for TFI Family Connections’s annual Foster Care Parent Retreat, where the children are supervised while foster parents spend the day in workshops and classes. This is a great chance to interact with foster children, even if just for the day!

Or, offer some respite care for foster parents! Give them a night off (or even a few free hours to run some errands!). This gift of time for self-care and relaxation can mean the world to busy families. The sky is really the limit here, so feel free to think outside the box: mow the family’s lawn; take their car in for a tune-up; offer to help clean their house once a month.

TFI Family Connections is also always looking for those with special skills and talents to support our mission, our space, and our kids. Those with skills in construction, AC/heating, and electrical are critical in helping with maintenance projects. You can also help out by teaching a class in computers, sewing, or cooking. Are you a doctor or dentist? Donate your services. Cut hair for a living? Give a few free cuts!

Lastly, TFI Family Connections would be nowhere without the long-standing financial assistance of its dedicated supporters. Donations help fund educational scholarships, independent living programs, foster parent training classes, and crucial upgrades to your systems and facilities.

While foster parents receive a stipend for their service, there isn’t always a influx of extra funds to helps provide additional essentials (or nice-to-have non-essentials). In-kind donations can be the difference between a child being able to play a musical instrument, take part in a sport, or go on a class field-trip. Gift cards to fun places like the zoo, museums, or local restaurants are a great way to help foster parents. You could also consider memberships to local clubs, pools, or rec centers. Or, sponsor a special day, and help build memories for the kids in foster care, by funding a a birthday or holiday celebration. And don’t forget the big back-to-school rush: students and families could always use a hand with supplies, book bags, and clothes.

Don’t know what you want to do, but know you want to help? Just give us a call at 866-543-9810 and we’ll connect you with something great and worthwhile!

5 Myths About Foster Care

If you’re considering foster care, you likely have a long list of questions about the process and what to expect.

With so much information out there to help prepare you, there’s also plenty of misinformation and myths that might confuse you. Don’t let these misconceptions overshadow the many benefits of foster care.

Here are five common foster care myths, and the real truth behind them.

  1. You have to quit your job to have time to be a foster parent.
    Just as it would be for any biological parent, staying at home 24/7 with the foster child is not a requirement, as long as you can make it work. You’ll work with the foster agency to plan out childcare. If the child is in school, you’ll need to arrange and account for before and after-school care. If the child is not yet in school, you can arrange for a babysitter or other childcare.
  2. All foster children are difficult and hard to manage.
    Some foster children come with some emotional and physical issues, but that is to be expected, as they’ve likely been through a lot. With the consistency and loving environment of a foster home, though, foster children can learn better coping mechanisms and ways to overcome their struggles. By fostering these, or any, children, foster parents have the chance to create a positive impact on their lives.
  3. I can’t foster if I’m not already a parent.
    Individuals aren’t required to already be parents before they foster. People who choose to become foster parents must simply demonstrate a commitment to the child, and the willingness to learn how to best care for them. Already having a child is not a prerequisite for loving and caring for a child. Foster parents also have the opportunity to take classes and workshops to be better prepared. TFI Family Connections even offers an extensive range of programs and trainings to get parents, new or not, ready to foster a child.
  4. I can’t foster if I’m not married.
    There is no marriage rule when it comes to foster parenting. The foster parent must be at least 21-years-old and healthy (and will have to prove this by seeing a doctor before fostering), and must pass a required background check. All walks of life can be considered for foster care, as long as the individual is able to provide a loving and stable home to the child.
  5. I have to make lots of money if I want to be a foster parent.
    Foster parents need to show financial responsibility and stability, but by no means do they need to be wealthy. Child welfare programs will assist with necessary expenses, helping offset the cost of a child. Just as you don’t have to be married or already a parent, people with all kinds of backgrounds can foster. The essential component here is that the child is well-cared for and their needs are met.

Foster Care vs. Adoption: Differences and Similarities

Welcoming a child into your home to provide them with a safe and stable place is both a noble and important undertaking. This can happen in a variety of ways, including both foster care and adoption.

Foster care and adoption allow you to love and support a child, opening your heart and home to someone who needs it the most. While both are serious commitments full of benefits and opportunities to play a pivotal role in the life of a child, there are many differences between the two. A myriad of circumstances makes a child eligible for foster care and adoption, and there are a variety of differences to think about.

First, the way a child enters each process if very different. A child becomes part of the foster care system after it has been deemed they are living in an unsafe or neglectful environment. Placement of a foster child is done through a state or social service agency.

In foster care, the child’s legal guardian still (typically) maintains all parental rights for the child. Although these rights are managed by the state, they remain intact unless the child is placed for adoption. This comes into play when considering educational, medical, and even religious decisions for the child. With adoption, full legal custody and rights are granted to the adoptive parents. Care for the child is entirely the responsibility of the adoptive parent or parents.

Once a child has entered the foster care system, the biological parent does not get to select where, or with whom, the child will go. With adoption, on the other hand, placement typically involves the biological parent in some way.

The length of stay is also a significant difference between foster care and adoption. While there is no set time-limit, and foster care can sometimes lead to adoption, foster care is a temporary placement. This can be weeks, years, or an even more long-term placement. Children stay in foster care until they can be placed back with their biological family or into a permanent adopted home.

Foster parents receive regular stipends from the government for essential expenses of raising the children placed in their home. On the other hand, adoption is an out-of-pocket expense, starting with the adoption fees themselves, to the cost of raising the child.

Both avenues require extensive background checks and additional medical testing, but as a foster parent, you must take caregiver and parent trainings to ensure you are providing the best care for the child. While these trainings are offered by many different organizations, and to a variety of people, they are not a requirement for adoptive parents.

For both scenarios, it is important to consider what is right for the individual’s current situation. The many benefits of foster care and adoption can work better for some than others, and it’s critical to evaluate what will be best for you (which will ultimately work out best for the child). Both come with incredible benefits, for you and the child, and are life-changing ways to make a difference in someone’s life.

5 Valuable Tips for Being the Best Parent You Can Be

Am I a good parent? It’s a question millions of Americans will ask themselves daily this year. There is no handbook for being the perfect parent. There is no agency that releases literature on how to get it just right. Parenting is an ever-evolving, ever-changing role many of us play, working our hardest to get it as good as we possibly can.

Of course, everyone needs some community support with parenting, especially the foster parents of the world taking in children that are not their own while giving them a new start.

Here are 5 valuable tips for being the best parent you can be:

  1. Be Loving, Yet Firm: One of the most damaging things a parent can do to a child is coddle them beyond the point of no return. Although you may not want to, you need to say no – a lot. Your child can’t have what they want, when they want it, at all times. You’ll be doing them a favor for when they reach adulthood, understanding boundaries, how to share, and how to adapt to foreign situations.
  2. Family Rituals: Studies have shown our fondest memories when we reach adulthood are from the family rituals we pursued as kids. You probably remember some quirky thing you did every Christmas. Creating predictability in this sense makes the children feel like part of the family – part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Acceptance: Don’t clip your child’s wings. Every child is different and unique in their own way, and you must let them be independent regardless of your opinion. “Helicopter parents” can thwart their child’s ability to converse with other human beings or pursue goals because of the smothering. Your child needs to exert their own independence without commentary.
  4. Step Back: As a parent, you’ll have an overwhelming desire to fix everything you can, at all times. However, some of our greatest childhood lessons occurred when our parents didn’t step in to save us. You want your kids to have their own problem-solving skills that will take them throughout their lives.
  5. Be Fun: Every kid needs fun. Especially as a foster parent, these kids possibly came from dark and dreary backgrounds, in need of a setting in which they can just be kids. Play with your children and show them that the world isn’t always so serious.

TFI Family Connections
Here at TFI Family Connections, we work with you, the foster parent, to ensure you are provided with a recipe for success regarding your foster children. Although we can’t train anyone fully with a “how-to-parent” blueprint, we can offer our support, expertise, and education to you daily. Consider these parenting tips this year when you feel like you’re totally overwhelmed with the responsibility. Remember to sit back, breathe, and focus. No one is perfect at it.