Recently, I joined in on an online conversation where friends were expressing how much they desired to become adoptive or foster parents, but they had chosen not to for specific reasons. One by one, they listed their concerns and fears about the foster care system and the kids in care. The really frustrating thing about the conversation was not that they had chosen not to foster—not everyone is a good fit for the job—but that their reasons were largely based in common myths about foster parenting.
Even my husband and I, who are in the process of getting our license to foster parent, came into our training with a lot of misconceptions. Now, after attending hours upon hours of training, picking the brain of experienced foster parents and reading dozens of blogs about foster parenting, I feel much more informed. And with over 400,000 children currently in the United States foster care system, nothing gets me riled up like the spreading of false information—especially if it may prevent someone from making the choice to become a foster parent.
Now, I am obviously not an expert on this topic, but I have talked to a lot of experts and interviewed multiple experienced foster parents about what being a foster parent is really like. Here is a look at what is myth and what is truth about the foster care system.
Myth: Foster parents are only in it for the money.
Myth: Your caseworkers will control the way you parent your biological children.
Truth: Unless you are being reckless or abusive, your caseworkers do not have any interest in influencing your parenting style. There are certain practices, such as corporal punishment or selective vaccination, which are not allowed for the foster children but you make these choices for your biological children.
Myth: Adopting from the foster care system is expensive.
Truth: Foster care adoptions are very affordable. In my state, for instance, these adoptions cost around $2,500, much of those fees are reimbursed, and you may qualify for additional tax incentives after adoption.
Your family and your love could be what changes the course of a child's life.
Myth: Children in foster care are damaged goods or beyond being helped.
Truth: All children in the foster care system have suffered trauma of some kind. First, there is the neglect or abuse that caused them to be removed from their home. Secondly, there is trauma associated with being removed from their home and being moved between foster homes. There are bound to be lasting effects from trauma, but healthy bonding, therapy and a safe environment can do wonders for any child. Your family and your love could be what changes the course of a child's life.
Myth: You have to be a stay-at-home mom if you want to become a foster parent.
Truth: If you and your partner both work, the state you live in will subsidize the cost of childcare. Some children with medical needs may require more care, but you can always say no if you believe a specific child won't thrive in your home.
Myth: You have to have a large home and each child needs their own room.
Truth: Most states require each child to have their own twin size bed and drawer space. It is perfectly acceptable for children in foster care to share rooms with other children. Most states requires opposite gendered children to be in separate rooms after a certain age.
Truth: Many foster parents are single. Most states simply ask you develop a support system within your church, family or school and have the financial means to support your family.
Myth: A dangerous or exceptionally needy child will be placed in my home, even if I try to say no.
Truth: You have complete control over who is placed in your home. Before saying yes to a placement, foster parents are advised to ask a lot of questions and have pre-placement visits with a child to be sure they are a great fit.
Myth: You shouldn't get attached to the kids in your care.
Truth: This myth could not be further from the truth! Children are placed in care because they have unhealthy or non-existent attachments with their biological family. Children who have experienced trauma need to form healthy and reliable attachments that are meant to last a lifetime. Yes, saying goodbye to a child is hard, but many foster parents are able to maintain a lifelong relationship with their foster children and biological families.
Are you considering becoming a foster parent? Learn more at AdoptUSKids.