The reality of foster care, and being a foster family, is that it can be really difficult. The truth is, a family doesn’t sign up to go through months of training, backgrounds, home study questions, and having their home inspected just to stop fostering in their first year. So why do some foster families leave fostering early? They get burned out! Here are 5 ways to fight or alleviate foster parent burnout.
Adjust your expectations.
If you start running a race too fast, you won’t have the energy to finish. To start fostering with the right expectations is the same as starting a race with the right pace. Don’t expect to change a child’s behavior, rescue a parent, and reform the system in your first year. Create healthy expectations in the beginning, like simply connecting with the child placed in your home and celebrating small victories along the way.
Seek and accept help.
Decide now that you will accept help, even when it seems difficult to do so. When people offer to babysit, accept the offer, even if it takes 30 minutes to explain how to manage trauma behaviors and you just plan to go out to grab a coffee. Make a plan before you start fostering for what help you will seek out, line up babysitters before you take your first placement, and even schedule a night out a month in advance if you need to.
Don’t say yes when you should say no.
There are many needs in the foster care system, but you need to be confident in the needs that you are best suited to meet. Sometimes a healthy no to a placement significantly out of your profile, for example, will lead to a better fit and less of a chance for burnout later.
Focus on what you can control.
That may sound selfish, but instead of becoming overly frustrated at a biological mom who is struggling to stay sober, focus on providing a stable, safe, and loving home for her child. If you stay focused on the things you can’t change or control, you will surely burn out. So shift your focus to what you can control.
Don’t forget your calling.
When the day-to-day of fostering starts to wear you down, remember why you became a foster parent in the first place. Difficulties and tiredness don’t change a calling. Knowing you are making a difference in a child’s life and remembering that you were called to this work can help alleviate burnout.
Sound off: Foster parent burnout is very real yet can be avoided when fostering, just as burnout can be avoided with other commitments. What are ways you have avoided burnout in the past?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you know about foster care?”