There are many requirements to meet and lots of classes to take. But what it really takes to become a foster parent is love, willingness to learn, and a lot of patience. Here are five things to think about before starting the process with your local foster agency.

Reunification Is the Heart of Foster Care

Adopting a child is really the very last option in the foster care system—kids and parents deserve to be reunited and safe together. While some children have already had parental rights relinquished or terminated, most kids in the system are waiting for parents to make changes in order to be reunited as a family. When you attend classes, you will learn all about how to be a parent to kids who already have parents, as well as ways to only foster kids who have been cleared for adoption, should you choose.

You Will Jump through Lots of Hoops

With orientation meetings, trainings, home studies, licensing, and social worker meetings, it takes a lot of time to become a licensed foster parent. Even if you’re only working to adopt a ready child, prepare for it to take a lot of time from start to finish.

The Average Age of Adoptable Foster Children is Eight

If you’re looking for an infant to join your family, foster care may not be the place to start. Kids enter foster care through no fault of their own. When families and systems break down, these kids are the ones who end up displaced and in need of forever families. Consider getting to know the kids in your area through a local agency—you may find your family’s “missing piece” is older than you thought.

There Will Be Trauma

Just the act of removing a child from a permanent home and entering care is traumatic, and many children have seen and experienced some scary adult stuff. Your social worker will prepare you to understand the trauma your foster child has experienced and will walk you through some aspects of therapeutic parenting. But it’s a good idea to start learning about different ways to parent before your kids come home.

You Control Who Comes into Your Home

It may be scary to think about all the different possibilities once you’re licensed and ready, but your social worker will be very specific with you when you decide who is best for your family situation. You’ll work closely with him or her to make sure everyone involved is in the right place.

Find a list of reasons to become a foster parent here.