I completely understand why people would ask this question. Kids who come into foster care have all experienced trauma…even if the trauma is primarily being removed from everyone and everything they’ve ever known. That experience of removal, in and of itself, is trauma.
More than likely there is additional trauma, which manifests in a variety of behaviors that are undesirable. And this can seem scary if you have other children already in your home.
Now, of course, I cannot make any guarantees about how things will play out in your home…every situation and every child is unique so I would not venture to guess how it would go.
It will not be without some challenges…I can at least tell you that. Regardless of how mature your children are, regardless of how many books or blogs or articles you have read, regardless of how young the children are who come into your home…it will be a challenge.
I don’t say this to frighten but simply to educate: you don’t know what you don’t know, and you won’t know until you walk through the experience. So obviously I can’t tell you what your experience will be…even if I wanted to.
So, clearly I didn’t know how my biological boys would be affected by being a foster family; the only way to find out was to jump in. My oldest (who was 12 when we took our first placement) is now a sophomore in college. He is majoring in community development with plans to go overseas to help vulnerable and trafficked children…and I just don’t know that this would have been on his radar without being part of a foster family and experiencing what it’s like to work with children from hard places.
Our middle son was 11 at the time of our first placement and I have witnessed an amazing growth in his ability to tolerate and engage well with younger children. This isn’t just a mom bragging but he’s really great with kids and they seem to enjoy hanging out with him, especially if sports are involved.
These aren’t the only changes we’ve witnessed; there are also the ways we’ve all been stretched and challenged (and ultimately grown) because of our experiences as a foster family. It’s not always been easy, but growth sometimes is that way.
Through our stint in foster care, my husband and I have learned how to parent differently…and honestly in a way we wish we’d known about with our older children. It is a much more patient approach, and very much in-tune with the individual child and his needs. Our older boys, though they do give us a hard time about the fact that we parent differently now, do understand the shift and I believe that what they witness will rub off for them to use when they are parents of their own children.
I believe the experience has also made my older children more independent…mostly because our youngest does take a fair bit of time and attention. They have had to step up and do more around the house as well…which is not all bad. They know how to cook and clean and cover the basics of caring for a household; had we not been a foster family, I will admit that I would probably have continued to do much of this and I know it would have been to their detriment. I’m sure their future wives will thank me for this as well.
I could honestly go on and on about all the ways my children have been affected…but this is only my story. You won’t know the impact foster care might have on your own family until you dive in for yourself.