Couples who choose to become foster parents have the heart to come alongside other families in raising their children, including those facing serious health issues. More than 400,000 children are in the American foster care system, and around 50 percent have chronic physical problems. Among those are children diagnosed with cancer.  

These children include cancer patients who require more significant commitment and care than what is typically needed. Different types of cancer can inflict children, including the rare mesothelioma. In particular, pleural mesothelioma—which comes from asbestos exposure—can take years to develop. 

Consulting a specialist helps with early detection if signs and risks are apparent. However, the symptoms of this cancer type can resemble other illnesses. These signs include a high temperature and sweating—particularly at night, breathing difficulties, pain under the rib cage, fluid buildup in the stomach, bloating, and weight loss.

Thus, it is best to connect with a mesothelioma support community to guide you or your loved ones through every step of the diagnostic and treatment process. 

Are you considering fostering a child with cancer? Or what if the child you are fostering now develops cancer somewhere down the road? You may wonder what you can do to be up for the task. Learn how you can prepare to give the necessary support for your foster child before and during treatment.

Challenges Faced by Foster Parents Caring for a Child Diagnosed With Cancer

Becoming a foster parent is already a huge responsibility. A government or private institution entrusts the temporary care of a young person who may have as many unmet physical needs as emotional ones. Parents should coordinate with several parties when deciding to foster a child with special needs. Parents must interact with birth parents—who retain the legal right to authorize medical treatment—local agencies, and health providers. But most importantly, foster couples must prepare for the main task of facing these challenges alongside the child, the family, and all those involved in the process.

Preparing to Care for a Foster Child With Cancer

Preparation entails learning as much as possible about cancer and its long-term effect on your foster child. Foster families must get ready to accompany them to doctor’s appointments and treatments while providing at-home care.

Foster parents will also have to understand and coordinate with Medicaid so the youth in your care can avail of health coverage if they are eligible. Speak with your caseworker about your foster child’s existing health insurance plans. Moreover, foster parents may have to meet with teachers or education service providers for special learning arrangements or deferments. 

Check Your Current Living and Work Conditions

When considering foster parenting, determine if you or your family can meet the foster child’s needs. Are you financially capable of fostering a child? 

Will your business or employer allow you to go on medical leave during the days you have to bring your foster child to the doctor for check-ups or therapy?

Also, consider your current family setup. If you have biological children, discuss and prepare for what fostering a child with special needs may entail.

Looking after a foster child with special needs will demand time and emotional investment. Family members should be prepared to make adjustments in their own time.

Finally, will your home be physically suitable to accommodate a child diagnosed with cancer? Or can you make the needed changes for foster care?

Finding Support 

Fostering a child with special needs is not a journey you take blindly or alone. Find people in your neighborhood or online community that you can draw strength from.

Families preparing to foster such kids can connect with agencies and other foster parents in person or through online communities such as

Be honest and specific about the kind of support you and your family needs from your friends, family, and support group. 

Helping Your Child Make Adjustments After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for both you and your foster child. You can provide age-appropriate information and build a foundation of trust and support with your foster child.

There are some general principles from the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society about the best way to discuss cancer with your foster child and relate with them based on their age:

Below 1 Year Old

Comfort your foster baby with plenty of skin-to-skin contact. Retain feeding and bedtime routine as much as you can. Your foster baby will appreciate soothing tones, so you can gently talk or sing to them.

1-2 Years Old 

Toddlers start to understand things that they can see and touch. They also begin to make choices. Find safe ways to allow your child to play. Allow them to choose a flavor of medicine when possible. 

Let them know ahead of time if something will hurt and provide assurance. Talking with your little ones will help reduce their anxiety and fear during the actual day of treatment. 

3-5 Years Old

Prepare your foster child before treatment, especially if any procedure hurts. Giving your child something to play with or reading a book can provide distraction or comfort. 

You can tell older kids the name of their cancer type and basic information about their treatment.

Clarify that cancer is neither a result of anything they thought, said, or did in the past nor is it something they got from other people, pets, or objects.

Help children understand their cancer better through play using dolls and toy doctor’s kits. Or you can ask your doctor ahead of time if your child can touch supplies (like bandages or tubes), machines, and models during your next visit. 

6-12 Years Old 

Children know that medication and treatments are necessary to reduce or eliminate cancer symptoms. While they can be cooperative with treatment, they may have questions and want to know what to expect. 

Be ready with answers, including naming your foster child’s cancer type and explaining the treatment they will receive. Inform kids in advance about any painful procedures.

These children should also understand that their ailment is not a punishment for something they did in the past. Know how to answer them when they ask if they will die from the disease.

School-aged children need to know how treatments will affect their school attendance and other activities. Kids value relationships at this time, so find ways to stay in touch with their family and friends.

You may give your foster child books that discuss cancer or connect them with other kids who also have cancer. 


Teenagers could understand more complex information about cancer. As much as possible, allow them to hear the diagnosis and treatment information directly from their healthcare team.

You can address your teen’s worries about changes in weight, hair loss, or general appearance. 

Teens may feel angry or scared about cancer taking away their freedom and isolating them from their friends. Look for ways to keep their social connections alive amid treatments. 

Be sure to offer safe places for them to cope, socialize, and grow.

Educate Yourself About the Cancer Treatment

Learn about treatment plans and how those plans will fit into the child’s day-to-day life and your family. 

You can keep track of treatment information by doing the following:

  • Get to know the people on your child’s cancer care team.
  • Research your foster child’s cancer type and list the questions you might need to ask your medical team.
  • Take notes or ask a family member to take notes for you when your foster child’s doctor or health team explains the treatment and how it will improve their condition.
  • Request the health team to teach you the kind of care your child will need at home. Inquire if the institution offers any classes for parents of kids with cancer. 

How to Avoid Pleural Mesothelioma 

Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the pleura or the lining of the lung. It occurs from direct exposure to asbestos-contaminated soil or products. Asbestos can cause the tissue lining to inflame, forming scar tissue plaques on the surface where tumors can grow. Thus, limiting exposure to such settings and objects is the best prevention.

Individuals at risk include residents near mining sites or companies producing goods that use asbestos and retain this mineral on their premises as factory waste.

Common household materials can also contain asbestos, such as ceiling tiles, duct wrap used in cooling and heating systems, wall boards, vinyl flooring, and boiler and pipe insulation.

Moreover, one could acquire mesothelioma through secondhand exposure. People working at asbestos-laden job sites such as mines or shipyards can pass the asbestos dust or fibers clinging to their clothes onto their family members. Although the risk of mesothelioma rises with age, it can occur in children. Cases of inherited mesothelioma comprise only 1 percent of patients with this cancer type. These cases result from a mutation in the BAP1 gene.