Nov, 21, 2017

What to expect when you’re expecting… a foster child

As with many things in this life, expectations, fall on a spectrum. On one end, expectations of an experience can be so low that if the experience exceeds your expectation then you are pleasantly surprised. But on the other end, expectations can be so high that if they go unmet we can be left intensely disappointed. My expectations have, in the past, been so unrealistically high, that if the experience didn’t match my expectation then I have found myself unable to enjoy the experience at all.

Even if you find yourself with unrealistic expectations as you walk through becoming licensed or even have a foster child in your home, it isn’t too late to begin adjusting your expectations!

Expect the unexpected

A lot of people, by nature, are planners. We like to schedule our days out to run smoothly with no bumps or hiccups. We like to process through situations and conversations before they happen.

While serving inside of the foster care system sometimes the paperwork you need doesn’t come when you need it, sometimes the answers you need aren’t the answers you get, and sometimes parenting a foster child in your home isn’t as easy as you expected. You are serving inside of a system that reflects the world we live in- messy and imperfect.

But take heart, by expecting the unexpected and not allowing the disappointment and frustration of unmet expectations color your experience you can more fully continue to love in word and deed the children in your home, the case managers that serve those children, and the system as a whole.

Expect trauma behaviors

The children that are in foster care have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment so severe that they could not safely live with their families. Those trauma’s will affect their behavior. Trauma behavior’s look different on each child. Some children won’t eat like your children do, some won’t sleep much and in turn you don’t get to sleep much, and some will throw tantrums that they can’t snap out of.

While you should expect trauma behaviors also expect for them to not last forever. The child in your home with stability, consistency, and love will begin to heal. It will take time, possibly a lot of time, but rest assured it will happen.

Expect normal child behaviors

While foster children will have trauma behaviors they will also act like normal children. Your biological children and the foster children may not get along, just like normal siblings. The foster children may try to argue their way out of everything, just like non-traumatized strong willed children. The foster children will lie to you, just like your own children can. Children, traumatized and non-traumatized alike, test boundaries and limits.

Expect to need support

When families bring home babies from the hospital they get gifted necessities like diapers, clothes and strollers. There are meal deliveries that happen so that the family can focus on their new normal. Your life shifts in the same way when a new foster child comes into your home. Reach out to your support system to for meals, groceries, babysitting, clothes, and diapers. You do not need to be an island. There is no shame in asking for help.


You may struggle, as I have with having unrealistic expectations but remember they are not set in stone.

Do you have expectations about being a foster parent that could benefit by adjusted expectations?

– Lacy Wilcox, Licensing Specialist West Florida Foster Care Services

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