1. Foster parents are just in it for the money.
If you say this to any foster parent, you will get a lot of laughter and, quite possibly, an extreme eye roll. While the “pay rate” for foster parents varies from state to state, it is nothing to write home about. In fact, most foster parents are paid just enough for the basic needs of a child such as food and clothing. Many are not even paid enough to cover basic needs, much less provide any additional support for extracurricular activities or other additional needs. Most foster parents chose to foster as a sacrifice that had nothing to do with any income enticement.
2. Foster homes are dirty and abusive.
You can blame the media for this false narrative. It rare that you come across a portrayal of a foster home on television without seeing a home with over 10 kids, all dirty, sharing beds, and the foster parents barking at them while throwing back a cold one. I remember having this view of foster homes when I was younger solely due to what I had seen on TV. Luckily, shows like “This Is Us” have shone the light on what many foster homes are realistically: A loving, caring home that simply wants to help be a part of the solution. Are there abusive foster parents? Absolutely. Are there dirty homes? Sure. There are homes that slip through the cracks and pass home inspections through deceit. However, there are many more amazing foster homes than the media portrays.
3. Foster care is only for stay-at-home parents.
It is often widely believed that a foster parent is a vocation in and of itself. While it is certainly a full-time job, there are many foster parents who foster and also work outside the home. Most states will help cover the costs of daycare for working foster parents. Many foster parents are caring for school-aged children, thus making working out of the home possible. Others may have a vocation that is flexible or allows them to work remotely. Regardless, you do not have to be a stay-at-home parent to foster, you simply have to have a plan of action and the time to add fostering to your life and family.
4. “I couldn’t foster because I couldn’t stand to give a child back!”
I can’t tell you how many times I myself said this same phrase. I could not possibly get attached to a child only for them to leave my home when they were reunited. It wasn’t until an epic debacle happened with our adoption process found our daughter in foster care for the first four months of her life that we truly understood the heart of foster care. Before we brought our daughter home, we were able to get to know her amazing foster family. They were certainly sad when she had to leave their home, but overjoyed for us. They expressed time and again that it would be more heartbreaking for a child to not have a safe and loving place for a short time than to have to deal with them leaving down the line. This spoke to me so deeply as it made sense. It was not about me. It was about the child and also helping the child reunite with their family while being there to provide a loving and stable environment in the in-between.
5. Foster children are “damaged” or “messed up.”
This portrayal of foster children is often also a product of the media. Foster children are certainly going through a very difficult time in their life and may react accordingly. There will be foster children who may have special needs or may also suffer from emotional difficulties due to their circumstances. It is important to remember that these children are children trying to handle adult situations. There are also many children entering foster care suddenly, for the first time, and possibly for a short time, especially with the current opioid crisis. Never assume you know a child’s past or their future. Agencies will provide training on the emotional needs of children, but the first step is to understand that children are not “damaged” or “messed up,” but going through one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Foster care is a mixed bag of experiences and emotions. There is not a one-size-fits-all picture of what any foster home looks like. However, foster parents are generally those who have sacrificed their time and their home because they feel a call to love and provide for children in a chaotic time in life. As with any service or system, there are pitfalls and exceptions to the rule, but far and wide, foster homes are places of safety and refuge.