When you welcome a foster youth into your home, you’re accepting the challenges and sacrifices that come with it. But you’re also ushering in a world of growth, second chances, and love.

You’re giving a youth who is overcoming challenging in life an incredible gift: hope.

But you, too, will benefit in ways you might not anticipate. Many foster parents say that the benefits of being a foster parent outweigh the challenges and that it’s the most rewarding experience of their lives.

Experienced foster parents could probably go on and on about the benefits of foster parenting. But, to get you started, we put together a list of the top five benefits of being a foster parent.

1. Make A Real Difference

Most people want to help make the world a better place. They write checks, volunteer at fundraisers and donate to toy drives. These are all good things, but sometimes people are still left feeling a little empty. They wonder if they made a difference.

When you foster a youth, you’ll get a daily reminder that you’re making a difference. Every day, a youth who may have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect will wake up in your safe and loving home instead of feeling forgotten or “lost in the system.”

As a foster parent, you can go to sleep at night knowing that, down the hall, an innocent youth who has experienced challenges in life is sleeping soundly because of you.

2. Form Friendships In The Foster Parent Community

Foster parents everywhere rely on compassion and empathy from fellow foster parents. Whether they’re meeting for coffee or joining with others at an organized support group, foster parents value the support and guidance that the network provides. Many say that they have developed lifelong friends from the foster parent community.

UMFS knows that peer support isn’t just “nice to have,” it’s essential to foster parents’ success and well being. That’s why, within the UMFS community, you’ll find ample opportunities to meet, mingle and network with other foster parents. We coordinate monthly support groups, connections to mentors and parent trainers and numerous other opportunities to join with other parents to learn and grow in your journeys.

3. Build Skills With Specialized Training

The process of becoming a foster parent involves a lot more than just filling out paperwork and completing background checks. As a foster parent, you’ll engage in specialized training before youth begin living with you, and you’ll continue doing so for as long as you are a foster parent.

The knowledge and skills you learn during this training will benefit you as you raise both foster and biological children, interact with adults and youth in your community and collaborate with teammates at work. The transferability of learned skills is practically endless.

For example, UMFS foster parents learn more than the nuts and bolts of the foster care system. They learn about brain development, gain insight into parenting youth with traumatic backgrounds and learn skills to help them cope. Foster parents also earn and maintain CPR certification, and they develop skills in conflict management and communication.

Building and strengthening skills like these will benefit you immensely, as you’ll become not only a better foster parent, but also a better spouse, friend, and citizen.

4. Be A Role Model

You might have already considered that you could be a good role model for your foster youth. But the benefits of this role extend a bit further. As a foster parent, you can be a role model for your foster and biological children, their friends, and your community.

Welcoming youth in the foster program into your home is a great opportunity to model the values of service, love, and compassion to biological children. Plus, you can show all the youth in your home that family isn’t about blood. Many youth develop such close bonds with their foster parents and siblings that it’s as if they’ve been together since the beginning.

When others see the good you’re doing, they might be motivated to give in a similar way. Your example could inspire them to donate to an organization that serves youth in foster care, volunteer with the program, or even become a foster parent themselves. Just think how much good you could inspire!

5. Receive Mentorship & Financial Support

Remember, as a foster parent, you’re not alone. Even after your initial training and preparation are over, you will benefit from several modes of support to help you in your new role.

UMFS, for example, provides 24/7 on-call support, mentoring, monthly support groups and parent trainers. Also, UMFS foster parents benefit from 12 hours of continuing education training per year. These opportunities will help you feel equipped with knowledge and supported by a strong community.

While monetary allowances shouldn’t be viewed as a form of income (nor are they enough to be considered so), foster parents are afforded some financial benefits to offset extra costs associated with welcoming a youth in the foster system into their homes.

UMFS provides 10 paid respite days per youth. The State of Virginia provides tax-free monthly maintenance payments and an annual clothing allowance. The amount of these payments varies per youth. Youth in the foster care program are also eligible for Medicaid and free school lunches at Virginia public schools.

Explore The Benefits Of Being A Foster Parent Today

The benefits of being a foster parent are different for every parent and family. But each family’s story fills someone else with hope and possibility, and for every challenge, the reward of a better life is worth it.

UMFS can help you take the next steps in giving youth hope.