Perhaps it’s too many made-for-TV movies. Or too few interactions with actual people involved in the foster care system. But there are several foster care myths that just won’t go away. Here is the top five that I’ve heard as a foster parent.
1. Foster parents are in it for the money.
No. Just no. There is a small stipend involved when foster parents have placements, but this money is used for the children’s needs. It’s used for clothing and diapers and daycare and allowances and extracurricular activities. Fostering is not a job. Perhaps there are a few folks out there attempting to take advantage of the system (otherwise, I have no idea why this myth persists), but in my six years of involvement in the foster care world, I haven’t met any. Zero. We’re not in it for the money. We’re in it for the kids and their families.
2. Foster parents are saints.
Strangely enough, this “opposite” myth also persists that foster parents are a special breed, set apart from the normal population. Again, it’s simply not true. We are normal people with jobs and families and emotions just like everybody else. We don’t choose to foster because we are special. We choose to foster because we want to help.
3. Kids are in foster care because they did something bad.
Children enter care because the adults in their lives cannot keep them safe at that time. They enter the foster care system through no fault of their own and need relationships and support, not vilification. While children and teenagers may be involved with both the foster care system and the juvenile justice system, they are in foster care because of choices that adults made, not choices that they made.
4. I can’t foster because I’m not married (or heterosexual or young or rich).
If you foster through a public agency in the United States, they are legally prohibited from discriminating against you because of marital status, sexual orientation, or age. And while there may be financial requirements (you will need to show that your family’s income is sufficient to meet your families’ needs without relying on fostering as an income source), you certainly don’t have to be rich in order to foster.
5. I can’t foster because I would get too attached.
Children and teenagers in foster care have all experienced the loss of a caregiver. They need healthy relationships with caring adults to help them heal and grow. Attachment is a big deal for children who have experienced trauma and loss. If you think you will get attached, you will likely make a great foster parent. Will it be difficult when children leave your home? Absolutely. But sharing your home and love and risking attachment with a child who had no choice but to become un-attached (by entering care) may well be one of the best gifts you will ever give.
Are you considering becoming a foster parent? What is holding you back? Are you a current foster parent? What myths do you hear most often? Leave a comment below!