May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and chances are, the foster care system affects you or someone you know in one way or another.
As a local foster mom myself, I’ve realized that there are many misconceptions about the system and the role of foster parents. I’d like to clear those up.
5 Things to Know About Foster Care
1. Yes, we get too attached.
Although nobody means any offense by it, the most frustrating comment to hear is, “I could never be a foster parent, I would get too attached to the kids!”
In fact, getting too attached is pretty much the whole point of foster care. Children whose lives have been interrupted by trauma deserve to feel attachment from their caregiver. To be able to trust that their needs will be met. And to know that they can thrive in a safe, loving family.
Yes, foster parents can become too attached. We aren’t able to magically put our emotions aside while caring for children as if they are our own. And the grief and loss of a child moving out of our home can be unbearable.
2. Doing foster care “just for the paycheck” isn’t really a thing.
Yes, foster parents do receive payment. No, we don’t “make money” out of the deal. The reimbursement is simply enough to offset the cost of raising a child. For example, it goes toward daycare, food, clothing, activities, toys, and hygiene items for the children.
Most foster parents spend more on their foster children than the reimbursement accounts for. And each child’s “rate” is based on their level of need. While there might be some foster parents out there that are motivated by money, I’d like to think that is very rare.
3. There’s a lot we can’t tell you.
Foster parenting can be a lonely place. While we can vaguely share some aspects of our experience, a great deal of information must be kept confidential. And many foster parents experience false allegations placed against them, which can lead to terrifying investigations. Then court hearings can feel like a never-ending battle where complete strangers are making decisions that could change the trajectory of these children’s lives.
Foster children also have frequent visits with their biological families. This can sometimes cause extreme reactions or behaviors when they return to their foster home. We can’t always share these details with our friends or family due to policies about confidentiality. And processing these experiences alone can be difficult.
4. It’s not like the movies.
Nearly every movie or show that I’ve seen featuring foster families ends with the foster parents adopting their foster children, and then they live happily ever after.
The primary goal in most foster care cases is reunification. And in most cases, foster children are returned to their biological family (or another relative), or are adopted by a different family. Adopting one’s foster children is much more rare than people think.
In addition, the “happily ever after” message fails to acknowledge the life-long challenges adopted children face as they continue to process the trauma and loss they’ve experienced. And it’s frustrating that the general public doesn’t get a better picture of how the system really works.
5. Yep, it’s worth it.
Although I often get to the end of each day out of breath from the chaos, there is nothing I would rather do than care for the beautiful children in my care. They are worth every single moment of stress. Every mad dash to appointment after appointment, every lengthy e-mail sent to their case worker, and every minute spent worrying about their future. Overall, becoming a foster parent has completely changed my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you want to learn more about becoming a foster parent, or more about how to support families in the FM area, please explore the following websites: