With 400,000 children in foster care in the USA, great foster parents are needed more than ever. Many single adults are interested in foster parenting, but worry that they won’t be allowed to do it. The truth is, single adults can be foster parents. Single foster parenting comes with its own challenges. Here are six survival tips for prospective single foster parents.
Plan Ahead When Possible. As a single foster parent, you won’t always have the option of running out to the grocery store at the last minute, or running errands at the drop of a hat. Figure out what you need to do, and when you will do it. Some people plan out their meals ahead of time, and even cook and freeze meals in advance. Some people use Amazon or other websites to cut down on shopping trips.
Develop A Support System. When preparing to become a foster parent, you will take classes and join support groups. Get to know the others around you. Not only can you cry on each other’s shoulders and celebrate each other’s success stories, but they may be able to step in and help you in emergencies.
Don’t Expect Perfection. As one person, you cannot do it all. You will probably not have the cleanest house on the block or the best homemade cookies at the bake sale. Focus on the most important tasks, and let others go. It is okay to assign some chores to children, such as folding or putting away their own laundry. They may not do it as well as you would have, but the job will get done.
Say No Sometimes. You may feel pressure to prove that you can do it all… chaperone field trips, coach a child’s baseball team, volunteer in the church nursery, and take care of your neighbor’s dog while he’s on vacation. Pushing yourself to do more and more will not benefit you, or your foster children, in the long run. Saying no to some things will give you more time to focus on yourself and the children.
Ask For Help. When you’re overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Respite care exists to care for foster children, for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, when needed. Friends and family members who know that you are a foster parent may be eager to help out by playing with the children while you do laundry, or inviting you over for a meal. Most foster care agencies also have supportive resources for foster parents. Use whatever help you have available to you. Getting help will just make you a better foster parent.
Celebrate the Little Things. Foster parents face many challenges, but there are many rewards as well. You’ll get to see children experience different things for the first time, watch them grow physically and emotionally, and even be a part of reuniting and healing families. Enjoy that. Know that, no matter what happens, you’ll have made a positive impact in the life of every child you foster.
Single foster parents might have to do a little more planning and juggling than married foster parents, but it is far from impossible. The first step is to contact a local foster care agency and find out how to get started. If you live in Texas, you can contact Texas Family Initiative to learn more.