If you are considering bringing a child into your family through adoption or foster care, you have likely heard about the required training and classes. At first glance, one may wonder why this training is even necessary. People have biological children every day without the slightest training. What makes adoption and foster care any different? While all types of parenting have their similarities, there are certain situations that are unique to adoptive and foster families. The training has less to do with teaching you how to be a parent and more to do with how to deal with certain situations that may arise. This training can also help to answer any questions that you may have. Depending on how you choose to build your family, different types of training will be made available to you. Attend these sessions with an open mind and a positive attitude and you are sure to finish feeling more educated and empowered about your adoption or fostering journey.
– Pre-Service Training
Once a family or individual has chosen to foster or adopt a child and completed any required applications, they are often required to take classes referred to as pre-service training. While the requirements for each area may vary, applicants will usually attend between four and 10 classes that deal with many aspects of fostering or adopting children.
These mandatory training classes teach a wealth of valuable information. A prospective parent will learn what to expect when fostering or adopting a child and how to work as a team with the agency. Training may be able to answer questions about the adoption tax credit and other financial and legal matters. This training can be a great resource in helping parents to understand the situations their children may be coming from and how to welcome them into the home to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. If you are on the fence about fostering or adopting a child, this training can help you to know for sure whether or not you are prepared to take this major step. It can also help you to decide what type of child you are best equipped to parent, for example, the age of the child you will be welcoming into your home, the home environment they have come from, whether or not they have special needs, etc.
In addition to the information these sessions offer, many parents appreciate building a support system of professionals and of others who are navigating the foster care and adoption systems. These classes are the perfect opportunity to ask any lingering questions you may have. Don’t be shy! No question is silly and someone else may be seeking the same answers.
– Foster Parent In-Service Training
Foster parents have a unique role in the lives of children. Children entering the foster care system are usually in the state’s custody because their biological families cannot currently provide them with a safe and stable home environment. Foster care is intended to be a temporary placement until the child can safely return to their biological family. While parents are often able to regain custody, there are some cases when this is not feasible.
A majority of foster children enter the system due to serious parental neglect. Sometimes the parents have a substance abuse problem. Sometimes the children have been physically or sexually abused. Each situation is unique. While the children are not at fault, they have often experienced difficult situations and may be struggling to adjust to the major changes in their lives. They may feel that they are being punished by being forcibly removed from their families and homes. Even if they came from an incredibly unstable home, it is often the only home they have known. As a child or teen, being separated from a parent can be a devastating occurrence, even when it is in their best interest. Many of these children aren’t sure what will happen next in their lives. Where will they go? How will their lives change? Will their foster families treat them well? Will they be able to return to their biological families? Can they attend the same schools and keep in touch with their friends? While it is completely normal for children to have these concerns, it’s important to learn how to best deal with the difficulties and uncertainties that may arise. Trauma isn’t easy to navigate. It can affect a person’s mental health, behavior, self-confidence, ability to create bonds or form healthy relationships, and find trustworthiness in people and places.
Foster parent in-service training is a program that helps foster families to understand and address an assortment of situations that may arise. These classes may provide training on behavior management, independent living, sibling issues, and informed care for trauma and special needs. Training can also help to navigate both the joyous and more frustrating emotions of foster parents themselves. Training may also help you to navigate communication with the biological family (which will be mediated by professionals who are always available to help). In many cases, foster care training is an ongoing process, with continuing education required annually. There are support groups, online classes, and in-service classes available. It can take six to 12 months on average before most families will become approved to foster or adopt. The application process will include orientation, training, and a home study. Feel free to contact your local department of human services for information about training in your area.
– Post-Adoption Training
Once an adoption has been finalized, there are likely new questions that will arise. There is a myriad of topics that can be covered in post-adoption training. This can include but is certainly not limited to talking about adoption (to your child, your family, doctors, educators, and others), communication with the biological family, behavioral or health concerns, and emotional support.
As your child grows, they may have questions about their biological family and about their adoption story. Knowing how and when to introduce the facts can make this process much easier. They may also face questions about their adoption from their peers. Helping them to find answers, to own their story, and to be proud of themselves and their family will assure that they know how to respond.
The agency or organization that has mediated your adoption likely has a wealth of resources for any post-adoption scenarios you may be facing. Reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.
– Kinship-Specific Training
There are many situations where children are removed from their homes of their biological parents but are still able to reside in a home with another family member. Kinship fostering or adopting is incredibly common. Children may find themselves living with grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, or other relatives. If the children are already related, why would the family need training?
When navigating the child welfare system, training can be a valuable resource. There are legal and financial matters to consider. It is also helpful to have a positive support system when the family dynamic has been changed. Training can help family caregivers learn to deal with behavioral issues and understand how trauma has affected their loved one. Even with family, it is important to instill a sense of discipline and set healthy boundaries while showing unconditional love.
– Transracial and International Adoption Training
When adopting or fostering a child who has a different cultural or ethnic background than your own, adoption training can be incredibly helpful.
Learning how to appropriately answer questions and handle comments from others can avoid needless conflict and miscommunication. Learning how to address racism if and when it occurs is also important.
Something as seemingly simple as hair and skin care can be quite challenging if a person isn’t accustomed to caring for it in the proper way. Many organizations offer adoption training to help parents care for their growing families in these areas.
While your family will make plenty of new traditions, it is also important to celebrate your child’s cultural and ethnic heritage. This will help to confirm their sense of identity and celebrate their background. Incorporating holidays, traditions, ethnic foods, and cultural history can boost a child’s view of who they are and where they came from. A child’s cultural and racial identity is an important part of who they are, so it’s important to encourage a positive self-view. It is also important that a child spends time with peers and mentors who look like they do and share the same culture so that they are able to feel they have a sense of belonging in their cultural community, even if their home life is based in a different culture.
Asking for help is encouraged and expected when learning something new, so don’t be afraid to speak up. There are many resources available at no cost to you.
– Special Needs Training
Many children and adults waiting to be adopted have special needs. These can be mental or physical needs, and training is necessary to give the best care possible. Depending on the needs of the individual, you may learn more about their diagnosis and prognosis, how to administer medication and use medical equipment properly, and what to do in case of an emergency. It is important to make an action plan that will guide you through what to do, who to call, and when to seek help if needed.
Your home may need to be modified to become handicap accessible. This may include special beds, bathtubs or showers, wheelchair ramps, chair lifts, handrails, or other modifications. A handicap-accessible vehicle or another reliable means of transportation will be important as well. While these renovations can be costly, there may be grants available in your area to help offset the costs.
In addition to the challenges that a person with special needs may be facing, caring for someone with special needs can bring challenges for the parents and caregivers. It is vital to have a healthy support system of peers and professionals to help as you cope with difficult moments. It is also helpful to have a trusted group of people you can reach out to when you need a break or when you just need a bit of assistance.
– Home Study Training
After the adoption application process and training classes have been completed, you will be required to undergo a home study. Home study preparation is often covered in training sessions. If you have any questions, your agency or organization will be happy to assist you. The caseworker will use your home study results to create a report. This report includes information on your background, financial information, level of education, and employment status. It will also list your personal references and your parenting experience. Details about your home, the neighborhood you reside in, and about your daily life routines will be included. The report will include your reasons for wanting to adopt as well as the children your family is best qualified to parent.
While this may seem like a lot of personal information, it is used to make sure children are placed in safe, loving, and healthy homes where they will grow and thrive. To speed up the process, you may want to go ahead and have the following paperwork readily available: financial statements, background checks, health reports, copies of any pertinent legal documents, and several personal references.
Some of the Best Lessons are Learned on Your Own
Professional training is an invaluable resource that will help you navigate the adoption or foster care process as smoothly as possible. Being prepared for parenting through foster care or adoption is encouraged and applauded. Even with all of the training in the world, however, there will be a lot that you learn on your own. There are many parenting handbooks, but the best teacher is experience. Beyond the financial matters and legal obligations, the most important part is the love and commitment you are ready to devote to your family. Know that you are never alone—help is always a phone call away. However, you will find that even when navigating unfamiliar territory, your parental instincts will kick in. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. You will have victories, too.
Parenting is an unpredictable, fun-filled, whirlwind of an experience. Through its ups and downs, the memories you make will be lasting and valuable. Don’t look at the training as something you “have to do,” but rather as an opportunity. Something that you “get to do.” Enjoy the journey, what you learn, and who you meet along the way.
Leslie Bolin is a happily married mama of 3 amazing kids. She is also the birth mother to an adult son. She is just beginning the reunion process, which makes her nervous and excited at the same time. Leslie enjoys educating others about adoption and has done her fair share of outreach, writing, and public speaking on the subject. She has an Associate of Arts degree in Social Work and plans to continue her education. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, finding peace in the beauty of nature, and laughing as much as possible. She believes that smiling is contagious and that music is good for the soul. She is a firm believer that even the most difficult moments can be turned into something beautiful when we use our stories to help others.