This Father’s Day I want to speak to all the foster dads and prospective foster dads out there. As a father you are likely to focus first on the many practical questions and logistics involved with taking on extra kids at a moment’s notice. But having fostered nine kids over nearly a decade, I’d like to share five things you may not think to ask that I wish I had known about fostering:

1 – How To Ask For Help

Foster parenting ain’t for wimps. It can be one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. That’s why almost half of foster parents quit within the first year — unless they are seen, surrounded and supported by friends. The problem is your friends don’t know you need support, or they don’t know how to support you. You need to learn how to advocate for yourself and the youth in your care. Recruit your own “wrap around” team and learn how to ask them for the kind of help you really need. Foster care needs more parents who are willing to stay in it longer and get stronger; that happens when they have friends who help share the weight.

2 – How To Recognize and Respond To Trauma

Parenting kids who have experienced trauma is next-level parenting. It takes a set of tools that traditional parenting doesn’t require. The first thing you need is a new “lens” to see through in order to recognize trauma that manifests in behavior. Trauma-informed parents don’t see a bad kid, but a sad one. This new lens helps you see beyond the behavior and discern the reason for it. Second, you need to acquire the tools to know how to respond to these trauma responses in a healthy way, one that promotes healing and secure attachment. Trauma training resources are widely available now in whatever form you like to consume information: podcasts, video or reading material. And here is a bonus — learning about trauma and attachment will help you become a better parent, not to mention more empathetic and effective in all of your relationships. (You can take a first step by checking out our free, one-hour trauma training.)

3 – Know It’s Okay That Some Kids Click and Some Don’t

As you know in life, you just click with some people, and with others you don’t, and it often has little to do with the person. The same is true for kids who get placed with your family through foster care. Some click; others don’t, and often it’s not a reflection on them or you. Don’t sweat it. Clicking isn’t the point; caring is. Clicking can make it easier, and be grateful when it happens. But some kids, especially those who have endured lots of trauma, struggle to click with anyone. As a foster Dad your role is to let them know they are safe and cared for; no clicks about it.

4 – How Fostering Would Impact My Own Children

This one mattered the most to me. Would we mess up our own kids by having other kids come and live with us? Would other kids’ trauma negatively influence our kids and their behavior? It turns out that our daughters were impacted — highly. They became more aware of a world in need of compassion, and they became more compassionate. They were amazing foster siblings, helping the kids in our home in all sorts of ways that my wife and I couldn’t — especially when it came to making them feel like normal kids again. When a child would leave our home after being with us for months, sometimes the girls would cry and other times they would be relieved. But no matter what, they were always the first ones to tell my wife and me, “Let’s do it again.” Now that my daughters are grown, one is an amazing foster mom herself, and the other is a fantastic foster aunt.

5 – How Fostering Would Impact My Church

When we started our foster parent journey, our church noticed. We had people who were happy to see the kids in our care, and we had some who even asked us how they could take the next step on the foster parent — or foster support — journey. Before long, we had more and more families stepping up to foster and some even adopted. Support groups and wrap-around ministries started. Occasionally, the church taught on God’s heart for kids in care. Our church changed. It turns out that these kids helped the people in our faith community become a better church.

The truth is that there are more than five things I wish I had known when I became a foster dad, but most of them I learned in the living, and you will too. The important thing is to be wiling to say yes, lean in and be confident that the work you are doing will make a positive impact, not only on the kids you care for, but also on you, your family and those you do life with. What lessons have you learned as a foster dad? Share them in the comments; I’d love to hear from you.