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Generally speaking, foster care is the system through which minor children are removed from their homes by the government and are placed into a certified residence. This can be a group or a private home, and the parent(s) or guardian(s) are certified through the state in which they live. Certification is in place to ensure a safe environment and a good match for the child(ren).

Foster care can and should be much more than just a location away from the child’s previous home. Safety is the number one concern of the government when removing a child from their parents and placing them into a stranger’s home. That’s why certification is crucial.

Parents who are passionate about foster care would tell you that foster care is:

Opening your home: Not just providing a bed for the child to sleep, and three meals a day – but rather giving the child a real home. Being torn away from all one knows (albeit neglectful or abusive) is traumatizing. Any one of us – child or adult – would experience fear and trepidation when placed in such a circumstance. True foster care is welcoming the child into one’s home to help the child feel as if it were his or her own home too.

Opening your heart: For however long each individual foster child has been in a neglectful or abusive situation, chances are the child hasn’t been the recipient of open, loving hearts. Being afraid to love a child because he or she may be with you for only a short time is a fear that must be overcome to be an effective foster parent. Yes, these children need safety; but just as essential for proper growth is love. These children need to be around open hearts so they can learn to open their own hearts.

Opening your mind: Although the social worker may fill a foster parent in on the background of a child being placed into their care, there is no way to really know what the child has been through.

Acceptance is a key factor in being an effective foster parent. Patience and tolerance without bending on firmness is essential. A foster home is not basic training; nor is it a prison. It is a home, and should feel that way to the child. A foster child should become comfortable sharing and opening up to the foster parent, given time. This can happen only when the foster parent opens his or her mind in an attitude of acceptance.

Although foster care is a system, it is also the means to a joyful journey and a happy life for children who have, by no fault of their own, been dealt some hard blows. In short, foster care is love at its finest.