I cannot tell you how many times I am chatting with someone and foster parenting comes up. Typically it’s because I have kids in tow, and I get the age old question, “Are they all yours?” asked. Of course, all the cashiers from WalMart seem to know us too: I am there more than some of their door greeters, so I guess it stands to reason.
Next comes the statement, “I have always wanted to do that, but I don’t think I could!” and then they tell me why it’s impossible – even though their eyes light up at the thought. Here is my short list of the most common reasons people feel they can’t take that step.
- I’m a single parent. You take pretty amazing care of your own child, right? Single parents are amazing! Honestly, what a social worker is looking for is a strong support system around you and your child(ren). Who helps you out? Grandparents, Aunts/Uncles, extended family, a church family, great friends? Who are your cheerleaders? If you have an appropriate home, a bed for a child coming into care, and your children are on board (very important), then I think you could be very successful. As a single parent, you very well could be working full time, which brings us to the next point.
- I work full-time. I love this response, because I think this person is very possibly a class away from being a foster parent. Most of these people have the room, the means, and the support. They are just worried about having to be home. Even if you are taking a baby (even that is adaptable), you can work full time. Usually, all that is expected is that you are home for the first six weeks if a child is a newborn. Of course, if a child comes home from school sick – you got it: you need to be there for that, or provide an alternative. Most likely, you’re not going to be able to call your social worker and find someone who’s willing to take in a sick child for the day. Full-time working parents love their children beautifully, and you can too!
- I don’t have enough bedrooms. When we first started foster care, we lived in an 1100 square foot ranch with 3 small bedrooms. My 3 pre-teen sons shared one room, and my daughter had the smallest bedroom, which she eagerly allowed us to put a crib into! What I will tell you is this: choose the placement type that will best fit your lifestyle. For us, that was babies. They are small, “portable,” and easily go anywhere! We had a large living room for the baby walker, baby gym, baby swing – you name it! For some of you, it may be that teenagers fit into your family better. Maybe you already have a teenager who is willing to share a room? Honestly, I’d let your social worker come and check out your house and give her honest opinion. You may be pleasantly surprised!
- We’re gay, they probably wouldn’t let us. I have heard this several times, and was surprised it’s even a concern. (Haven’t you watched The Fosters?!) As someone who has worked in foster care for about 8 years now, let me just say: let that concern go. Don’t think about anything except this: can you love a drug-exposed baby? Can you swaddle her, and console her through the night? Can you enroll, and cheer like a crazy person at that little boy’s baseball game? When that bi teenage boy with green hair graduates, can you be there in the seat to watch him walk up to get his diploma so he has “people”? Yes. Every time, yes. These children need a loving, stable homes. If you can do that, you can be a great foster parent!
- I have a record. This is one I heard twice from people who desperately want to, but are scared to even try. I know we can all make stupid mistakes as a young person, and – unfortunately – when you’re 18 it becomes part of your record. Some of these things are just dumb: misdemeanors that represent mistakes you would never make again. The thing I recommend is being completely honest with the social worker before you even start filling out paperwork. Let them run the background check first, and counsel you after you have had a chance to explain the circumstances. Sometimes, there is just no way of working around it. Other times, it can be done. The key here is being honest. There are some really amazing foster parents out there who have some sort of history. You never know until you try!
These are just my quick answers to real questions people have posed. The best thing I can recommend is stopping by an information session. Don’t go with your pen in hand to sign up. Just go, listen, and voice your questions. We decided to take the class, knowing that at the end, we didn’t have to do it. We could have dropped out anytime. That didn’t happen, and the longer we took classes, the more we wanted to make a difference during this hard time for a child. The very bottom line is this: Can you love a child through a very difficult time? You don’t need to fix anything, just be there to love, hug, listen, and be consistent.
Submitted by: Andrea Thomas, licensed foster parent
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved (Andrea Thomas)