The truth about being a foster parent is it’s often an unpopular choice.
Foster care and foster parents don’t have a great reputation in our culture. How many television crime dramas revolve around a damaged soul whose misery can be traced back to a horrifying orphanage experience or maniacal foster parents?
If you want to go for popular altruistic endeavors, provide clean water or buy mosquito nets — parenting children who’ve gone into foster care is often resented.
So, why even consider being a foster parent? What is being a foster parent like?
Let’s cut through the stereotypes, and consider four truths about being a foster parent.
4 Truths About Being a Foster Parent
Truth #1: Being a foster parent is heroic and desperately needed.
Overwhelmingly, the children who go into foster care are the victims of either severe abuse and/or neglect perpetrated by their parent or guardian. At any given time, there are approximately half a million children in foster care nationally and 5,000 in Colorado.
Contrary to stereotypes, these children aren’t monsters sent to terrorize homes and bio kids.
I’ve seen a wide range of foster children across age groups. Many children are very small, some even newborn.
Some have been beaten. Some have been neglected. Some have been molested. Some are malnourished and underfed. Some are addicted to drugs from the womb. Some come with almost no baggage.
Children with known, extreme issues typically aren’t sent to foster parents, they are assigned a different level of care.
Some foster kids are teenagers like Brogan:
Some of the teens have straight A’s, some don’t. Some of the teens are happy, and some are sad. Some of the teens are crying out for moms and dads to love them.
They are all kids who have been hurt, needing a family to love and guide them.
Truth #2: You can be an amazing foster parent.
Sure, some foster parents and foster agencies have a bad reputation. You don’t have to be a rotten foster parent. You can be spectacular, rescuing children from misery and shining a bright light into the world.
Those of us who want to make a difference in children’s lives can reinvent what foster care looks like.
At Hope & Home, reinventing foster care looks like teddy bear clinics, princess parties, Santa Claus, fashion shows, bounce houses, and so much more.
Make children’s dreams come true. Hold a precious baby safely in your arms. Buy a teen girl her first beautiful dress.
At Hope & Home, we do everything in our power to give children the kind of world we want to live in. Join us.
Truth #3: Being a foster parent is rewarding and life-changing.
When I was in my early 20s, I played Saturday morning basketball with some older men at a community park. They always met at 6AM, and it drove me nuts — it was Saturday!
One of them, a doctor, said, “Brian, I used to think my life changed when I got married, but once I had kids it really changed — that’s why we play at 6AM on a Saturday.”
Much like biological parenting, foster parenting is life-changing. Besides the normal consuming activities of parenting young children or teens, foster parents have the added responsibilities of meeting state requirements and caring for children with acute needs.
Records need to be kept, visits need to be made, medicine dispensed, case workers and home supervisors will be a part of your life. It’s not easy, but it’s good.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
— C.S. Lewis
The truth about foster care is that taking care of foster children takes a whole heart, willing to accept the payoff of laughter, pain, sorrow, joy, and even self-improvement.
Watching an abused child regain the ability to smile and laugh is priceless. Seeing a teen comfortable in her own skin for the first time is worth the mood swings.
Ice cream cones, baseball games, and trips to the playground are the perfect counterweights to the difficulties of being a foster parent.
Foster care changes children and foster care changes foster parents. Be amazed as selfishness and personal idols begin to crumble in the face of vulnerable love.
Truth #4: There are fantastic foster child placement agencies (CPAs).
Wanting to rescue kids through foster care is one thing. Knowing which agency to use is another.
My wife and I started foster care in September of 2012 and could have benefited from a resource like this: How to choose the right foster care agency.
Fortuitously, a friend pointed us in the direction of Hope & Home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Some agencies make the lowest of all appeals: earn money by fostering. This is a major red flag.
Fostering to make money is a mindset which can prove dangerous to children, validating the stereotypes.
In my experience, any money that comes in for fostering is largely consumed by the expenses of parenting well. Diapers, food, gas, clothes, entertainment, toys, and other purchases for the children are the intention of such money.
A good child placement agency will never make an appeal to fostering as a good source of income (neither would a financial planner who can do math).
Great foster and adoption agencies do exist. Here are 14 qualities your foster and adoption provider should exhibit:
Choosing the right child protection agency is crucial to being a successful foster parent.
Not only does Hope & Home exhibit the 14 qualities of a great agency, it shatters the stereotypes.
Besides enduring the types of traumas which necessitate removal from biological parents, foster children often miss out on childhood experiences many of us take for granted.
Hope & Home knows this, going far beyond simply finding homes for children. Think: summer BBQs, bounce houses, pool parties, 5Ks, ice cream, movies, cotton candy, crafts, face painting, and sports camps.
The list goes on: A princess party at a castle; NFL player visits in the summer; a fashion show attended by the who’s who of the city; Christmas gifts and a visit from Santa; A building designed to look like ancient Rome and Italy.
Hope & Home careful vets and trains only the best foster parents, coming alongside with amazing events and support groups — including live training for remote parents. A growing mentoring program pairs new foster parents with seasoned veterans and staff are always available for support when the need arises.
Children deserve this kind of care, and foster parents deserve this kind of agency.
What about adoption support?
You may be thinking, “This sounds great, but I want to adopt.”
It costs Hope & Home thousands of dollars to certify just one foster family. For this reason, some agencies prohibit their foster families from adopting any of the children they care for to prevent the families from “retiring” and quitting foster care.
At Hope & Home, fully half of families each year will “go inactive” because they have adopted and their households are complete!
The agency celebrates every family who gives a child a “forever home” through adoption, and honors their permanent place in the Hope & Home family.
Adoption isn’t guaranteed in foster care. The primary goal is reunification with biological parents, but this doesn’t always happen and many foster parents find themselves presented with the opportunity to adopt.
Reasons People Become Foster Parents
People end up being foster parents for many reasons. I read some challenging ancient wisdom about taking care of orphans and widows, and felt like it would be important to do some real and practical good.
Many people wish and pray blessings, but not as many people “do”. My wife is a doer, and she lead the charge into being foster parents — I followed her.
Some foster parents struggle with infertility and decide to help take care of children as a way to do good, learn what it is like to be a parent, and—sometimes—adopt their foster child(ren). If this is you, learn how to hack the foster care system for a baby.
Still others end up fostering their own relations due to some family tragedy.
The truth about being a foster parent is it’s a worthy pursuit.