The name of the foster parent has been changed to respect privacy and confidentiality.
Becoming a foster parent is intimidating. You may feel like you aren't prepared to take on a new family member or that you won't be a capable foster parent. Almost all foster parents feel this way at the beginning. We sat down with Natalie to learn about her fostering journey, including why she persevered in the times she felt ill-equipped and what she has learned along the way.
1. You Will Feel Nervous to Foster and That is Normal
Natalie and her husband considered fostering for some time, describing it as their "calling" but had never followed through until a chance encounter. While photographing a wedding she met an event coordinator who was fostering a teenage child. She spoke about her journey as a foster parent with Natalie, including the achievements and personal learnings her family and the foster child experienced.
Their time together was brief, but it affected Natalie: "My 20-minute conversation solidified it for me. I went home to my husband and said, 'get on board, we're doing this!'"
As part of the process, Natalie and her husband were provided with essential training and education on supporting children in care, including why behaviours develop from trauma and how to cope. Naturally, they were afraid of the unknown. They wondered about how taking on a foster child would change their home life and the impact it would have on their biological child.
"There is so much information thrown at you through training and the home study and it's scary. We had many points during that process that we felt we may not be equipped to take on this roll. We persevered, trusted our gut and embraced our community who helped us pave the way into foster care," she says.
2. You Become Part of a Supportive Community
Natalie learned that during her first year as a foster parent, her family would be paired with a foster care mentor for support with fostering skills and coping mechanisms. It was through this mentor that Natalie also learned about the Calgary and District Foster Parent Association (CFPA).
Natalie found an instant connection with a new community. "As much as I love being at home with my kids, I also wanted involvement in the foster care community," explains Natalie.
By meeting a peer group, Natalie was able to integrate her family into community events where they found incredible fulfillment that not only added to their relationship with the foster child but also with their entire family.
3. Fostering Will Become "Normal" for Your Family
As soon as they were placed with a foster child, Natalie and her husband found a new normal for their family.
"I don't look at my kids as foster kids. They're children, they need stability, love, support and strong parenting. They also need someone who can embrace their experience and their families, whether that's a comfortable place for us or not. While they are with us, we're a unit and we go through the ups and downs together", she says.
Natalie and her husband took the same love and guidance that they provide their bio kids to her foster child, explaining: "They need security in adults. They need someone to be with them at the depths of their pain and the height of their happiness. They need to be understood and have things explained to them. They need to know they are loved".
4. You Will Find Joy in the Journey Even in Difficult Times
Knowing that her kids were coming from difficult situations, Natalie says that being able to intervene and provide them with parenting, advocacy, security and the opportunity to grow up in a community with support made her find joy in the journey. She says, "A hard beginning does not have to result in a hard ending and fostering can be the change in that trajectory."
Natalie describes one of the most rewarding parts of fostering as seeing firsthand the real impact it has on foster children's lives. Many foster kids come into new homes with major fears and see the world as a scary place – this was true for Natalie's foster child: "Taking a bus, going down a waterslide or even trying new food can be a major hurdle for these kids".
Natalie proudly talks about one of her most memorable moments with her foster kid – when she finally rode a bike. "She was terrified," she recalls, "As I had many times before, I encouraged her by holding the bike, telling her she could do it and that once she did ... she would love it forever."
After nearly a year with Natalie, her foster child was finally ready to try riding a bike: "She paused, fought it – and then off she rode". Natalie couldn't hold back the tears. She knew what it took to get her to ride that bike, "It was months and months of building trust and providing a safe environment for her to grow up".
Natalie's last words of advice?
The process of fostering can seem intimidating but don't let it stop you from taking that next step. You could be missing the opportunity to change a child's life and add a new incredible journey to yours.