“To achieve a different result, you must first change the input. You cannot change the output without first changing the input.” — Dr. Jamie Schwandt
My intent for this discussion is to challenge a strongly held view that a foster parent should foster out of the kindness of their heart; thus, they should not be paid. While I agree a foster parent should have strong love for a child, we need to rethink the profession of foster parenting.
To move closer to the system genius described in my theory the Foster Care Trinity, we need highly educated and highly paid people; for which I also argue in Bachelor of Science in Foster Parenting. Essentially, we need to create a new full-time profession – the Professional Foster Parent.
Treated by the wealthy, yet raised by the poor
While there are some ridiculous rules to become a foster parent, the qualifications and training received are minimal. Essentially, as long as you are not a convicted felon and you have a pulse, you can become a foster parent. Yet, do not expect the money to start flowing in. Instead, you would actually make more working at McDonalds.
A child in foster care is educated by a school teacher (requires a bachelor’s degree), treated by a psychologist (requires a high-level graduate degree), and their case is managed by a social worker (also requires a bachelor’s degree). Yet, they live with a foster parent who is often times on the same level (financially and educationally) as the biological family the child came from. They typically do not have a college education and live closer to poverty than that of a trash collector.
So, why do we insist a foster parent should be fostering a child out of the kindness of their heart? Moreover, the people who do foster out of the kindness of their heart are leaving foster care due to the dysfunction of the system. This leaves foster parents who typically do not have the best interest of the child in their heart.
If you believe that a foster parent should be doing this solely out of the kindness of their heart – please ask yourself the following:
Should a doctor refuse pay because they should be treating people out of the kindness of their heart?
Should a teacher refuse pay because they should be educating children out of the kindness of their heart?
Should a social worker refuse pay because they should be looking after children out of the kindness of their heart?
The clear answer to each question is no. Yet, why do we think a foster parent should? Especially since they shoulder the bulk of responsibility for the child. This makes absolutely no sense.
What is the incentive to foster?
Just as in any profession, results will fall in line with the incentives you offer. If you pay low wages you will get a low-wage-skilled employee. You will get an employee with the skills matching the job. If you pay higher wages and require a specific education then you will get employees matching those skills as well.
The incentives for being a foster parent are less than a kid flipping burgers at McDonalds. Yet, a foster parent holds the responsibility of a medical doctor.
Highly educated foster parents
We go to school for just about everything else, why not foster parenting? Why not create a profession where a specialized degree in foster parenting is highly sought after? We could even merge the profession of a social worker with foster parenting. So, instead of going to school to attain a degree in social work, we could attain a degree in foster parenting. This type of degree would need education in numerous areas to meet the requirements the job desperately needs. A degree in foster parenting should include education in the fields of trauma, child and family studies, psychology, sociology, and social work.
How would we fund this?
How do we pay for this? This is a question I am often asked when I discuss the topic of a full-time, highly educated, and highly paid foster parent. Here is my response.
1. Foster Care Bond. Fund the system similar to how we previously used war bonds and how we use bonds today. Everyone would have the opportunity to fund the success of a child. Think of the phenomenal success this could bring to a child and the system by simply purchasing a Foster Care Bond.
2. Open-Source Foster Care. We could use innovative ways to fund the system and save quite a bit of money at the same time. By using crowdfunding or crowdsourcing in foster care, we could fund the infrastructure within the foster care system, fund the creation of schools for foster children, fund the salary of professional foster parents, and fund the entire foster care system itself.
Even if you do not agree with my argument, you have to agree that the system must change. The current system is so dysfunctional that it is allowing children to die. Until we introduce radically new change, we will never achieve new results. The foster care system is no different than any other system.
Unless we change the input, we can never change the output.