Foster parents are called upon to walk a unique path with a unique set of challenges and rewards. The journey requires both courage and compassion. And while it’s never easy, it’s always worth it. There are no “ordinary” days. Some are filled with joy and laughter; others with overwhelming challenges. But every day represents an opportunity to make a life-changing impact on a child and family, supporting them along their own path to healing.
My first exposure to foster care was while working as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, but it wasn’t until my husband and I actually began fostering that it became a true passion for us. During this time, we came face-to-face with the sheer complexity of the foster care system, and we simply couldn’t ignore the various, unrelenting needs of the foster care community as a whole.
There are approximately 2,300 children in foster care in Houston (over 4,000 if you include the 12 counties surrounding Houston). Of course, becoming a foster parent is just one of many ways to find your place along the River, but without foster parents, the system simply could not function.
If you are currently fostering or considering it, here are 8 things to keep in mind as you navigate this journey:
1. Understanding trauma is key.
As children come into your care, they will often carry with them the burden of their past experiences. Trauma can manifest in numerous ways, including challenging behaviors, emotional shutdowns, anxiety, and much more.
For foster parents, it’s always helpful to be reminded that challenging behaviors are not personal — it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. Challenging behaviors are often protective mechanisms developed in response to past experiences. Through love, patience, understanding, connection, and support, we can help such children heal.
If you feel like you lack training or could benefit from some additional support in this area, we’re here to help! Take a look at our Current Foster Family Resource Guide, the Harris County TBRI® Collaborative, or simply reach out to our team through our website. We’d love to hear from you and connect you to resources.
2. Remember your "why" on tough days.
There will be many moments that produce doubt, exhaustion, or frustration. In these challenging moments, it’s essential to remember why you started on this journey in the first place. Reconnecting with your original motives can help to provide the strength and perspective needed to push through.
3. Celebrate the small wins.
Success in foster care doesn’t always come in grand gestures or significant milestones. Sometimes it’s the small moments that matter most: a brief smile, a night without nightmares, a shared laugh, or one great day of school. Cherish these moments and celebrate them!
Ultimately, it’s the moment-by-moment consistency, presence, support, and care that builds trust, deepens connection, and fosters hope.
4. Stay connected and educated.
The foster care landscape in Houston is constantly evolving. Stay connected with networks, organizations, and communities that can offer guidance, training, and support. You can make your journey smoother and more successful by finding the right resources to keep you in the know.
If you reach out to our team at The Riverside Project, we’d be honored to leverage our partnerships and connections to help you find what you’re looking for.
5. Patience is your ally.
The journey of healing and adjustment is different for every child. The pace of every case is unique as well. In the Bible, we read, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
Through it all, try to be patient and gracious towards those you interact with. Be patient with the child(ren) in your care, giving them time to open up, trust, and adjust to their new environment. Be patient with agency workers as they navigate heavy days and an oversized caseload. Be patient with your family as they embrace big changes. The list could go on…
Patience is not the opposite of advocacy. Rather, it’s a key part of trust-building and effective communication.
6. Self-care isn't selfish.
You’ve probably heard this before, but take a moment to let it sink in. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Nobody can.
Your needs matter. Whether it’s 15 minutes to yourself in the morning or evening, a hobby, or counseling, investing in your own well-being will be a blessing to the children in your care.
I know it can be a challenge to find the time, and that’s why we offer Babysitter Training, and why we put together a map of local parents’ night out events. There are people and organizations in Houston who want to help you, so take advantage!
7. Remember the primary purpose of foster care.
Part of our vision statement is that Houston would be a place where “families heal.” Ultimately, we want families to stabilize and heal, which means that we prioritize reunification whenever possible.
Obviously, reunification is not always possible, and adoption is a beautiful thing too. But if we truly want what’s best for children, we will love and serve their biological families as well. We want to offer encouragement to biological parents, we want to support existing connections whenever possible, and we want to be true team players when it comes to discerning what’s best.
8. You don't have to do it alone.
As the saying goes around here: Things that matter are hard. You don’t have to do them alone.
The weight of fostering can be overwhelming, but there is a community of other people who care deeply and want to support you. Reach out, lean on others, and remember that the strength of the collective is much more effective than the strength of an individual pushing through on their own.
It takes a village.
Want more info? We have some thorough guides for prospective foster families, current foster families, kinship care, and community support on our website. You can find them here.
Where is your place along the river? Whether it’s pursuing education through our resources, finding a place to serve, or giving to make this work possible, it’s when we work together that we can make the biggest impact here in Houston.