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This is the first in a series of biweekly Family Friday blogposts that will address the topic of becoming a foster or adoptive parent.  This posting considers necessary prerequisites for success in reaching out to children in need.

So, you are thinking about becoming a foster or adoptive parent.  The life circumstances that bring you to this consideration are immeasurably diverse.  Let me be the first among many who will tell you during this new journey that you are special.  Likewise are the children for whom you are considering opening your heart and your home.  They will offer blessings and joy, as well as challenges and uncertainty, to your daily lives and your life goals for the present and the future.  It is important that you realize that the decisions you are considering will be life-changing for you and the children entrusted to your care.  The process which lies ahead of you will seem arduous at times but vitally necessary to ensure their safety and well-being.  As you would with any trip you might consider, it is important to reflect on some prerequisites for this pivotal decision to become a foster or adoptive parent.

The first, and most obvious, prerequisite is physical space.  Your home should have adequate bedroom space to accommodate the number of children you are willing to foster or adopt.  This is more than a personal consideration; it is typically a requirement of any state or private agency placing children in your home.  While each agency’s standards may vary, at least forty (40) square feet of bedroom space per child is not uncommon.  For example, an 8’x10’ children’s bedroom would allow consideration of two children (bunk beds can make a huge difference in maximizing bedroom space).  The age and gender of children also impacts bedroom space and potential placement.  In regards to minimum requirements specific to your situation, the state or private agency with which you will be licensed will provide specific guidelines.  The important fact to remember is that, in order to provide foster or adoptive care for children, you must have the space available.

The financial means to provide adequate support is a vital second prerequisite.  Its importance is to ensure that a prospective foster or adoptive family is financially stable and meeting their current financial obligations.  This issue is increasingly important in today’s employment and financial turmoil.  While agencies typically offer various means of support for all foster parents and many adoptive parents, the financial viability of your family is an important consideration.  Any financial support an agency provides is helpful but by no means meets all the expenses of providing for the children.  I have never met a foster or adoptive parent that “does it for the money.”  On the other hand, very rare would be the family who would choose not to foster or adopt if the support were not available.  The importance of this prerequisite is your confidence in, and the agency’s appreciation of, the fact that your family is financially stable and the availability of support does not factor into your interest to foster or adopt.

A final prerequisite is a natural, unbiased love of children.  I would go so far as to contend that such love should be an unconditional love.  While every child we might welcome into our home and family is at some level “loveable,” their genetic, familial, and social background impacts their present reality and their ability to relate appropriately to you and other family members.  Trust of others is grossly challenged.  Even more critical is the child’s perception of self-worth and perceived responsibility for their separation from family and placement in your home.  An uncompromised acceptance of the child that appreciates their present situation and affords them the opportunity to grieve is crucial during the first few days.  An unconditional love that encourages their strengths and redirects problematic behaviors is vital to establishing and building appropriate bonds between you and the foster/adoptive child.

Being a parent is challenging and time-consuming.  Being a foster or adoptive parent is that and much more.  While the challenges are many, the joy it brings to you, your family, and the children you welcome into your life and family is beyond measure.  The prerequisites suggested–physical space, financial means, and unconditional love–provide a viable foundation for success as a foster and adoptive parent.  You have taken an important first step in considering the possibility of becoming a foster or adoptive parent by reading this blogpost.  Whatever your decision, whether you choose to embrace or decline the opportunity to reach out to children in need, it is my prayer that God will richly bless you as you faithfully serve His children!

Reflection:  What is your motivation to consider being a foster or adoptive parent?  What about your experience as a parent gives you encouragement as you consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent?  What considerations discourage you or raise questions in your mind about doing so?  How has this post encouraged or discouraged you?  What questions does it raise?