AS a social worker for the only Asian-focused foster family agency in the United States, I often get asked what the challenges and rewards are in fostering a child. We hear from prospective foster parents who tend to bring up many questions during our agency’s informational sessions and when I think of how best to respond to these questions, I’m reminded of Filipina foster mothers in the program who talk about these five milestones in the fostering journey.

The challenges, the expectation, the experience, the reward, and the importance of providing Filipino cultural support to Filipino-American foster children in need in Los Angeles.

Of course, there are challenges in the fostering journey — one of the first is figuring out if fostering is right for you and your family. It takes an honest conversation with yourself and your household to discover if you are emotionally and logistically ready to share your roof with a child that may have a complicated background.

The challenges

Some foster parents (now known as “resource parents”) come into this with little to no experience of raising children and they undergo particular challenges when foster children display difficult behavior. When you work with a foster family agency like AFFI, resource parents have direct access to in-language speaking social worker(s), children’s therapist, and other community resources.

Throughout the process, you learn that foster children experience deep levels of trauma that tend to present itself in things like temper tantrums or volatility in attitude. Our team helps you navigate through those scenarios so that you are equipped to support the children who need someone in their corner.

Another consideration is that there are resource parents who have experience raising their own children and may forget from time to time that there are different approaches that need to be implemented when a foster child joins your family. For example, if you schedule quality family time to go out of town, the child’s county social worker (CSW) must be informed. If you take the child to the doctor, the CSW must be informed of that as well.

The expectation

The next step that we often remind prospective resource parents is that it is very important to manage your expectations when you consider fostering a child. Some resource parents are primarily looking to foster-adopt a child, meaning the family hopes to potentially adopt a child through foster care.

Indeed, there are ways to indicate on your resource parent application that you are leaning towards foster-adoption; but I’d encourage you to ask me more about that so we can help manage expectations.

Resource parents who hope to foster-to-adopt may be met with disappointments if the adoption process does not happen due to changes in the child’s case — aka reunification with the birth parents occurs or a relative ends up taking in the child. This is a difficult situation, but we simply can’t stress any further that the number one goal of becoming a resource parent is to provide a temporary, safe and reliable home for a child, with the ultimate objective to reunify children with their birth parents.

However, of course, there are many cases where the birth parent may have lost or given up their parental rights altogether – paving the way for adoption.

The experience

It’s important to call out that resource parents and foster children will be reminded that they are not alone in this process. When looking back on their experiences, both the resource parents and the child will likely remember any social workers, therapists, or organizations that were present during the family’s time together. It is a collective effort, on so many ends, to ensure that the resource parent and the foster child are given the support they need to maintain a healthy and loving home.

The rewards

We often hear that the first phone call you receive from your social worker, along with the first day you meet your foster child(ren), are the memories that you’ll never forget. It’s life-changing and it is rewarding on so many levels. Whether the child is on the path for reunification or adoption, the resource parents’ contribution in providing a temporary, safe, and loving home is an immeasurable value.

Additionally, the relationships resource parents build with the children have long-term meaningful impacts. The relationship between children and their resource parents are significant, whether they’ve stayed with you for three weeks or three years.

Filipino culture support

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of providing Filipino cultural support for children who need it. This reminds me of the story of three Filipino siblings who were lucky enough to be fostered by a Latino family. While it was a blessing that the siblings were not split up, according to their county social worker, the children missed even the simple Filipino dishes, particularly hot dogs in their spaghetti.

In some cases, the implication is greater than culinary nostalgia. In some cases, children lose the ability to speak Tagalog because there weren’t enough Filipino resource parents to take in children during their key developmental years. In extreme cases, they will know absolutely nothing about their heritage if they grow up in homes where their cultural heritage is not discussed.

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We all know a family member, relative, or perhaps even ourselves who have the resources and the heart to share with these children. In order to attend our Pre-Approval Parent Trainings in March 2019, you must attend an Orientation hosted by the Asian Foster Family Initiative, which is the first and only Asian Pacific Island focused foster family agency in the nation. Please contact Mariah at moca@kfamla.org or (213) 235-4851 for any questions and/or to register.

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