“Are you thinking about becoming a foster parent and concerned about the effect being a foster family will have on your biological children?” We had the same questions when we became a foster family with biological children.
Two words that carry a lot of weight. Words that often come with sadness, brokenness, fear, and unknowns. But they are also very special words that represent hope, family, love, and healing.
You most likely ended up here, reading this article, because you felt that tug on your heart. You saw the need of the 440,000 plus children that come into foster care over the course of a year in the United States. And while that number is staggering, realizing that each one of those represents a child who did not make the choice to be placed in foster care.
There should be no doubt that there is a great need for foster families in every state of our nation.
But what if you have biological children?
“Should foster care just be for those that don’t have kids or their kids are out of the house?”
“Isn’t it scary to have both biological kids and foster kids?”
“What would the effect of being a foster family have on my biological children?”
The above questions and more were all ones that we asked ourselves when we started our journey to become foster parents.
We were concerned. We were worried. We had a lot to think about. Just like you are right now.
When we decided to start the foster care licensing process, we had three biological boys, ages 5, 3, and almost 2.
My husband and I both had concerns about how foster care would affect our boys. We were unsure of how we would talk to them about the children who may come into our home. All of the questions and concerns about our hearts being broken by foster care were felt times three with our biological children to consider as well.
While we didn’t have all the answers when we began our foster care journey. We did find some answers and learned a LOT along the way as we became foster parents with biological children.
The number one thing I would share with anyone who asks is that being a foster family gave my children so much!
These are some things that our biological children gained from being foster siblings in our foster family:
- They gained an awareness of others.
So often children see just themselves. They are usually unaware of any other kind of family unit or family situation than the one they are experiencing themselves.
Becoming a foster family really opened our bio children’s eyes to the world around them. Seeing for the first time that there were different kinds of families, different kinds of children, and a lot of love to be given and shared.
- They learned about love and giving and sharing.
The most beautiful thing about seeing our children with their first foster siblings was seeing the love, acceptance, giving and sharing that they gave.
They learned that sharing simple things like toys and bedroom space was not hard and that they had plenty to share with anyone and everyone.
- They gained an amazing family.
Until the point of adoption we talked openly with our children that their foster siblings may not stay in our home forever, but they would always be our brothers and sisters. Adopted or not, the children in our home were family, and always would be.
There were a few things that gave us confidence that becoming a foster family was right for us. Some of them we had in place already, and others we found ourselves. If I had to start all over again I would make all of these priority number one for our family.
Vital resources for your family when you are fostering with biological children:
- A strong family foundation
While you don’t have to be the perfect family by any means, you do need to have a solid family unit before becoming a foster family.
A strong marriage or partner relationship will give you confidence that you are on the same page. And a solid pattern of family communication with your bio children is extremely important.
Having good (but not required to be perfect) relationships in your immediate family will give you the strength to share the love that the foster children coming into your home will need.
Being a foster family is not always easy, but you can weather anything when you are working together as a team.
- A great agency
I had no idea how important a good agency would be to our foster care journey. I can’t emphasize enough how vital it is to have an agency that represents the best interest of the foster child and foster family.
Look for an agency that has many years of experience, has helped both parents and children in their foster care journey, and has a record of successfully reunifying and helping children be adopted into permanent families.
Hope Cottage in Dallas, TX is one of those foster agencies that has a century long reputation for serving families, children, and the community through their resources, programs, and agency.
They are celebrating 102 years of helping families. They serve women who are pregnant and are in distress, foster families, foster children, adoptive families, and give parenting support.
An agency like Hope Cottage, has the experience you want to be a part of your team. They will have programs that will support you and your family during your licensing process, during your foster placements, and adoption and beyond.
A good agency will offer a wide range of services that do not leave you scrambling for help, but rather foresee the needs that will arise and meet you with grace, love, and support.
Hope Cottage is currently celebrating their 102 year anniversary with a 2020 Donation Campaign with a goal of raising $200,000 to be invested directly into all of their programs including those serving foster children and foster families.
I love supporting non-profit agencies whose mission is to ensure the future of children and families through foster care, adoption, and pregnancy support. Click here to donate now and support them in their mission to strengthen communities and families.
- Support from friends and family
Not everyone will agree with you or understand your decision to become a foster family. Support from friends and family is crucial to a foster family. We need a strong village of those that love us, will share in our ups and downs, give respite when we need it, emotional support, encouragement, and patience as you navigate your foster care journey as a foster family.
This will be important for your biological children too. They need to continue to have outside friends and family who are supportive of them and you, as a parent, throughout your foster care journey.
During our licensing process for foster care and after bringing home our first foster care placements (twin, infant girls) we began an open conversation with our bio children. Of course, they were pretty young at the time, so we had age appropriate conversations. But we wanted to set a precedent for them and our family to have openness, communication, and boundaries that would give our bio children security as well as our foster children.
These are the values we prioritized with our family:
Our children had no idea what foster care was. They needed to learn about foster care and what it means for our family.
Foster care is not adoption. But foster care does mean that they are a part of our family right now and we get to love them. We don’t know the future. We are okay with not knowing and thankful that we can be together today.
We explained that children come into foster care because their mommy and daddy were having a hard time and we get to help out their family while they get help.
It was important to use that our bio children and foster children always felt like they could ask us any question and not feel bad.
We worked to create conversations that allowed them to verbalize their feelings. Just because a child is silent does not mean that they do not have an opinion or questions.
There were times we would just ask the children if they had questions or if they wanted to know anything. While we couldn’t always give them full answers or we didn’t know the answers, it created an atmosphere of openness and communication.
Anytime a new child comes into your home whether biological or foster, your time and attention has to be split a bit more. It’s just reality. It was important to our family to make sure every child knew that mommy and daddy were still available to them any time you needed them.
We worked to give our bio kids assurance that we were not going anywhere. They were still important to us and making sure they had our full attention and could request our attention at any time gave them the assurance that we were still available to help them, give love when they needed it and attention when they requested it.
- Unconditional Love
As a parent you know that you will love your child no matter what. But our children do not always know that or are not confident in that.
We purposely speak out-loud “I love you no matter what.” all of the time. It’s a statement I don’t mind repeating too much. And not just speak it, but put into action acceptance, forgiveness, and kindness.
While last on this list, it is not least. Boundaries are important. We let our bio children know that they had personal boundaries that were okay to have.
“Safe touch” has always been a conversation in our home and we continued to teach it when our foster children were present. It’s an important Your stuff/space. Our stuff/space
Before accepting any foster child placements into our home, our agency encouraged us to think about our family and our needs first. They gave us valuable information that helped us in the process of getting our foster care license.
Here are two things that we were encouraged to consider during our licensing process:
- Birth order
Did we want to keep birth order for our biological children?
Meaning, would we accept a child that was older than our oldest? How would we and our bio kids feel about being suddenly the third oldest child instead of the second?
We went into foster care with the intention to adopt any of our foster children if they were unable to return to their parents. I always want to be clear that reunification is always the goal with foster children until it is absolutely clear that it can’t be. But reality is, there are some cases where it is in the best interest of the child to be placed for adoption with a forever family.
Our hope was to be able to be there for our foster children when the goal was reunification and to be ready to be a forever family for them if it came to that point.
Because we knew that adoption was a possibility at some point, my husband and I discussed at length whether disrupting birth order was something that we were okay with.
In the end, we decided that we would not disrupt the birth order for our two oldest children. And would consider cases where the foster child was older than our youngest child.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. In fact, I know several foster families that have had foster children who were teenagers and biological children who were babies and birth orders of all kinds of ways and they had no issues at all. It’s a personal choice and decision.
The second consideration we were encouraged by our agency to think about was trauma.
Foster care and childhood trauma go hand in hand. And while it is no fault of the foster child it is a reality. We were encouraged to have open and honest communication with our social workers about what trauma needs our family was able to help with and which we were not.
I do not regret one tiny ounce making the decision to become foster parents with biological children!
In fact, I count it as one of the best decisions we have ever made as a family.
There is no “Typical” journey for foster families, but I can confidently say that it is worth it.
Your journey will most likely take a very different path from our journey, but the foundations are the same. The openness to love is the same. The determination to share your family with another child by choice will still remain the most beautiful and wonderful thing you will do for your family.
Get the first steps to foster care and adoption HERE.