With the staggering numbers of children in foster care in our communities, there is always a need for more foster families. Many people consider foster parenting, but often, fear the unknowns of it. The thoughts of “What if we get too attached?” or “What if the child goes back to a bad situation?” seem to steer people away from jumping headfirst into foster parenting.
Of course, there are reasons why one should not be a foster parent, and every person needs to decide if foster care is the right thing to do. However, when considering the reasons not to do foster care, perhaps, one should consider the reasons to become a foster parent.
Here are just a few to think about:
1. Foster care really is a mission field. Have you thought about going on a mission trip, but your job, family, or situation does not allow for it? If so, consider becoming a foster parent. There are ample opportunities for you to reach the “least of these” in your own backyard. Children and youth in the system have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and face tremendous obstacles. Foster parenting is a powerful way to lift up the heads of children and youth, and show them that there is hope for the future.
2. It takes a lot of active players to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect. One of the key factors in rectifying problems and circumstances that bring children into care is the involvement of multiple people who play integral and supportive roles with at-risk families, children, and youth. The role of a foster parent is one of the most vital ones in the system. Foster parents can love and teach children while also supporting the biological family members who are working to provide a safer home for their children to return to.
3. Foster parenting changes generations. If you have thought, “I can’t help them all, but maybe I can help one,” consider this: The difference you can make as a foster parent, and adoptive parent, does not just change the one or two children you are fostering. It has the ability to change generations. Children and youth can learn what it takes for families to be stable, abuse-free, and safe. Foster parents are the ones who can teach them this. Through these lessons, the hope is that they will grow up to provide security and safety for their children, and their children will do the same.
4. The lessons learned through foster parenting translate to different situations throughout life. Time and again, people who have experienced foster parenting walk away with a greater sense of what is really going on in their communities. Their ability to humanize others, understand that everyone has a story, and appreciate their own upbringings are just a few of the great lessons learned while foster parenting. As a foster parent, you learn to let go of the need to control things in your life (that is probably one of the biggest challenges as well). You also begin to see a greater picture unfold of how your own life experience can shape the world around you.
5. There are not enough homes for older children and sibling groups. This is one of the most heart-breaking struggles in finding homes for children and youth in care. It is very difficult to find homes for children over the age of six, and for siblings groups of three or more. A lot of families entering into foster care prefer younger ages, and while this is understandable, the truth is that all ages of children and youth are in need of families.
In addition, if homes are not available for larger sibling groups, the group is split up into multiple homes. Children and youth in care have already dealt with their lives being turned upside down, so sleeping in foster care shelters due to the lack of homes or being separated from siblings is extremely distressing. It cannot be stressed enough that there is a huge need for families to take older kids and sibling groups.
6. Far too many children grow up in a setting that does not resemble a family. Residential facilities and group homes provide for safety, basic needs, and structure, but they are not a family. Some children require a high level of structure and care due to emotional and behavioral challenges, but it would be considered an incredible success if families were willing to undergo specialized training to meet the challenges of these children and youth, while also providing them with the feeling of belonging in a family.
7. The children need you. Let’s face it. There are far too many children in the United State foster care system. We live in a great nation with tremendous opportunity; yet, around each corner in our communities are children and youth who may never taste the sweetness of a life lived without fear, confusion, and chaos. Of course, the greatest challenge and passion of professionals working in child welfare is to prevent child abuse and neglect. Despite the work done in this area, the statistics continues to show that abuse and neglect are prevalent in our society. Foster parenting is a mighty way to be a part of a community that works tirelessly to provide children and youth with a greater future. The children need you. They need all of us.
These reasons are just a few to remind of the greater calling in life to help children in need. If you have ever thought about becoming a foster parent, this poem by Forest Witcraft may just sum up the very reason why you should become one: “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of care I drove . . . but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”