Is Foster Parenting For You?
Five Things to Consider Before Becoming a Foster Parent
- You may be in a season of your life when your current obligations simply don’t allow for the time required to invest in a child.
- If you have children at home, consider only a foster child younger than yours so that your children set the example rather than the other way around.
- Foster parenting is about helping a wounded child form new, safe, and dependable relationships. Emotional stability of the foster parent is key.
- Your experience with your own children may not qualify you to deal with kids who have been severely abused, neglected, abandoned, or molested. Their behaviors, as a result of the pain they’ve experienced, can be more challenging that you might expect.
- The training provided by the foster family agency will help, and the social workers assigned to help you and the child in your care will be a tremendous support. (This is why partnering with a private, non-profit foster family agency, as opposed to the state/county, is so important. They typically provide more relevant training hours and the social workers typically have a smaller case load and more time to help. For information on how to find the right foster family agency, go to the Resources page.)
- Don’t expect that foster children are going to automatically know your rules, behave perfectly, and be grateful for the sacrifices you’ve made. They may eventually be grateful, but remember that the reason they’re in foster care is that they’ve experienced unspeakable trauma.
- Understand that kids who have been abused often missed aspects of learning that are basic to you — for example, appropriate boundaries. Be prepared to deal with foster kids “in your space.”
- Remember, children are not placed in foster care because of bad behavior but because of abuse, molestation, abandonment, or neglect. Their family relationships have been damaged.
- It’s important to look at the experience as one of simply planting seeds that someone else may water, but which will take root and grow—sometimes much later.
Be prepared for what could be the most rewarding relationship of your life!
Questions about being a Foster Parent
Can I choose the age of the foster child?
Yes. However, be aware that there are many children needing out of home care and that through experience and training, you may find that you are most effective in caring for a specific age group or a range of ages. Families for children and youth between the ages of 11 and 16, sibling groups and teen moms are currently needed most.
How long will foster children remain in my home?
Foster children can be placed on a short-term basis or for years. You may state you preference to the foster family agency.
I am unmarried, can I be a foster parent?
Yes. Single persons and married couples are generally accepted as foster parents. Some states do not license/certify homes in which unmarried adults are living together unless they are relatives.
What type of support do foster parents receive?
Each family or child is assigned a case manager who is responsible for providing support. Supportive services (respite care, training, crisis lines, etc.) are provided by the licensing agency. Support is also available through state and local associations. Initial reimbursement is provided to cover the costs of food, clothing, and other essentials.
What about medical insurance for foster children?
In most states, foster children are eligible for Medicaid cards which cover medical, dental and counseling services.
As a foster parent, can I work outside the home?
Yes. However, if the foster child requires day care, the foster parent often is responsible for that expense.
Who pays for the foster child’s clothing?
Foster parents receive a reimbursement which is intended to cover the cost of food and clothing. Some states provide a clothing voucher at the time of the child’s first placement. Others provide clothing vouchers at the beginning of each school year.
Do I have to own my own home?
No. However you do have to have space for a foster child, according to the requirement of your state.
How to Become a Foster Parent
For the experience to be a good one for all involved, it’s important that everyone in the home be on board with this decision.
Review their websites, look for accreditation, check www.guidestar.org, and check state and national association membership listings for child welfare organizations that are involved in the child welfare community.
application for a license
criminal history check
finger printing of every adult member of the household
a personal interview with each family member
Every state has different requirements for training hours and topics. The foster family agency you choose will provide everything you need.