There is no right way to foster but Necco provides information to help you make the decision about what age is the “right” age for your home.
Common concerns for fostering children out of birth order:
Being uninformed about developmental milestones.
Predatory behaviors toward the younger, biological child.
The oldest biological child may feel challenged (their role as the oldest child, “taken,” by an unknown outsider).
We suggest that first and foremost you do what makes you comfortable. Many parents feel more at ease about fostering within the age range they are already familiar with and we completely understand. If you want to go outside of your ‘comfort zone’ regardless of age, gender, or birth order, we are here to support you with information, tips, and compassion. We understand that fostering can be a scary, wild ride. But you are never in it alone.
Remember that just because you raised a 5-year-old, it doesn’t mean your foster child will act like a 5-year-old.
Parenting experience is hugely beneficial. However, we consistently remind foster parents that all children are different. Some of their differences could largely be the result of trauma they have endured and its effect on the brain. Just because a child is younger doesn’t necessarily mean the child will be developmentally on-target, or even compliant with your parenting styles... at first. Additionally, an older child may carry a stigma around them based solely on the fact he/she is an older age. Indiana Jones said it best: “It’s not the age. It’s the mileage.”
There are circumstances when Necco recommends a family not foster a certain child based on birth order.
Raising little ones is challenging. If a biological child is too young to have the conversation, we recommend fostering children older than the biological child. We do not want nor like to exhaust our families. This is where we offer case management support at a potentially higher level. If a family has children aged outside their skill set, we offer more support (at least at first). We may increase visits to the home and up our phone contact with the family. After our families have settled in and have established a routine, we can adjust our contact schedules.
There are also some common-sense practices in place that would discourage opposite-sex children from being in the same foster home. For example, fostering a 17-year-old boy while having a 15-year-old daughter may not be the best dynamic for the family.
A note on Necco’s policy around Fostering out of birth order and abuse. Necco works diligently to gain as much information about a child referral as absolutely possible. We review each child referral that state and county case workers submit for foster placement. These referrals contain sometimes years-worth of data and social history on the child. Examining a child’s behaviors, medication history, abuse history (such as physical, sexual, mental, and emotional) helps us match the right child with the right home. We are very upfront with our foster homes and share this information with them, as much as we can. From there, our foster parents can make the decision as to whether or not they would be able to foster that child.
In our precertification trainings, we discuss topics such as behavior management, children of trauma, and normal vs. abnormal behaviors. Necco provides treatment services to children in care to help address some of the underlying issues that led to their placement. Each age-appropriate child is assessed for counseling services. This also includes medication management if necessary. Because foster children have often experienced abuse or neglect, they need counseling services, education, structure, routine, and love in order to heal.
Necco offers foster care and adoption services in Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and West Virginia. Learn more about how you can begin the process of foster care or adoption. One quick form submission and you’ll be on your way to building your forever family.