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Foster parents who have raised their own children will tell you how valuable it is to have parenting experience before accepting a foster child. After all, there is a lot of crossover, so to speak, when it comes to caring for a foster child vs. a biological child, not the least of which is that both require love and commitment.

Never mind the fact that all children have similar basic survival needs, which include food, shelter, medical care, and protection from harm.

At the same time, though, there are some important differences between caring for foster children and caring for your own children.

It’s Different Because It’s Expected to Be Temporary

While you expect your biological children to remain with you until adulthood and to maintain a good relationship with you indefinitely, the first goal of foster care is to reunite foster children with their own family.

And that temporal nature of foster care placements presents its own challenges, including a fear among foster parents that they will have a hard time “letting go.”

However, it’s worth noting that the best foster parents do become attached to their foster children, even as they help to facilitate and support a child’s return to his or her own family. Support services and support groups exist to help foster parents deal with their loss.

Also, in some cases, foster children stay in touch with their foster parents even after they have separated, which is typically a win-win for both parties. 

Another important difference is though you will know some of  your foster child’s personal history, you won’t have lived it. With your own children, you have lived their history from the start. Therefore, it’s easier to make assumptions about your own child’s needs and preferences. 

You Haven’t Lived Your Foster Child’s History

Another big difference is that your biological children trust you as a parent and you haven’t yet earned the trust of foster children. That will take time and take consistency and relationship.

Yet you can’t make those same assumptions about a foster child, who may have experienced trauma or abuse, and may have difficulty adjusting to a new environment. Some foster children have received a mental health diagnosis and need counseling or medication for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

And while it can be challenging for foster parents to deal with a foster child’s emotional, psychological, behavioral, and developmental issues, helping a child manage and overcome their issues is one of the many benefits of becoming a foster parent.

You May Have Little Notice

Last but not least, when you have children of your own, you have had months to prepare for their arrival. With foster children, the timetable is not your own. In fact, one of the greatest stressors for newly licensed foster parents is that you simply don’t know how long it will take before a child will be placed in your home.

Yet, most seasoned foster parents will say it isn’t a good use of energy to worry about when a foster child might come your way. Rest assured, when that first foster child arrives on your doorstep, that child is going to seem like the only thing in your world, and all your focus will shift toward providing him or her with a safe, supportive, and stable environment.       

You Have the Support of Omni Visions at Every Step

If you’re working with Omni Visions, you’ll also have the benefit of our support services and guidance, including small group parenting classes and family support groups. Want to learn more about becoming a foster parent in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky or Indiana? We encourage you to give us a call toll-free at (800) 851-6108 or to contact the Omni Visions office nearest you. For two decades Omni Visions has specialized in providing training and support to caregivers so foster children can reach their fullest potential.