23 Myths and Misconceptions for 2023 Foster Care Month!
#1) I can’t be single
If a foster parent is single, they will still be considered but with a focus on identifying family and other resources as support. Single foster parenting is rare and exceptional because those who do so are also rare and exceptional. We ask that if you start your foster care journey unmarried, you commit to staying single until your home has been licensed. If a single foster parent gets married after their home is verified, the home will be re-verified in both spouses’ names.
#3) I’m too young/ old
We often hear, “We’re just too old to foster.” from empty nesters. While caring for kids surely keeps you on your toes, there are no rules stating you must be young to foster. Likewise, a young foster parent may believe they are not “established” enough to foster. This is also far from the truth. The greater reality is foster children need love from a caring adult and love does not have a target age. TBHC currently has licensed foster parents ranging in age from 24 years old to 75 years old.
#5) I can’t have pets
Many foster parents have pets. All domesticated animals must have proof of current vaccinations on file. In fact, many foster kids respond well to pets and can be a source of comfort and affection to children that have been hurt or abused.
#7) I have to own my own home
Foster parents can own or rent their home. The home is just required to have adequate bedroom space (40sq feet/child) for each child. Homeownership is not the only definition of a stable and loving home environment.
#9) I can’t foster, because I’d get too attached
It’s false that this is a reason you shouldn’t foster- it’s 100% why you should! Instead of letting the fear of you getting too attached deter you, you should actually let the fear of these kiddos never feeling truly attached to someone drive you. These children need people who care deeply for them, regardless of their experiences or behaviors.
#11) I can’t foster because of my past
Everyone faces challenges in their lives, it’s how we overcome them that matters. Foster care recruiters can work with most misdemeanor charges if you are up front with what may show up on your background check. In the home study process, we will help you determine which past experiences may help you as a foster parent. We have even had foster parents who were in foster care placement as children, looking to be mentors for the foster children.
#13) All foster kids have been sexually or physically abused
Over half of the children removed from their homes are moved due to neglect. It is unfortunate & true that sexual & physical abuse does occur in some cases. The recent, national increase in adult drug use has caused an increase in children being removed due to adult drug use and incarceration. Despite the reason a child is placed in foster care, it is important to remember foster kids need love and are typically removed from their homes through no fault of their own.
#15) Parenting a foster child will hurt my children
From sibling rivalries rooted in feelings of being “replaced” to now sharing mom and dad, there are always challenges to kids who gain a sibling- regardless of how they gained that sibling. In the beginning, it may seem like these adjustments are overwhelming. Over time, most parents find that these changes ultimately have positive effects on their children. Parents often see their children become less selfish, more flexible, and willing to share as a result of having foster children in their home. Eventually, the new family dynamic will feel organic.
#17) The younger the child, the better the chance they’ll be “ok”
Implied in this myth is the belief that the older the child, the more they have experienced and thus, the less likely they are to be mentally and physically healthy. But this is simply not true. Regardless of age, a child experiences trauma when they are removed from their biological home. No child in foster care is immune to trauma experienced in their biological home.
#19) As a foster parent, I’ll be at it alone and need to seek out support/resources on my own
Being a successful foster parent takes the support of a community, whether from family members, close friends, church family, fellow foster parents, mentors or community leaders. TBHC will give you resources to look to when facing questions, difficult situations or challenging behaviors. There are also plenty of online support groups and communities specifically geared toward building networks of foster parents who can guide one another in their fostering journey.
#21) The biological family will try to take my adopted child back
At times fostering a child or children can lead to adoption. Once your family has adopted a child or children, that child or children is legally yours. You may be encouraged to be open to connections with biological parents or extended family members because it’s been proven that children do best when they are close to people who know them and who they were around before they were involved in child welfare.
#23) I have a disability, so I can’t foster
Not all disabilities will disqualify a person from fostering. If fostering will not put a person’s health at risk or limit their ability to care for a child, the disability will not prevent them from being a foster parent. If you can perform typical daily activities and attend necessary meetings, you should be able to foster.
#2) I can’t work full-time
If both parents work out of the home and full-time, they will qualify for CCMS assistance. The median age of foster youth is 7.8 years of age, so they would be in school for the majority of the day and then the CCMS assistance will be able to cover the cost of childcare.
#4) I have to have kids already
Foster kids need responsible, loving, trustworthy parents that are willing and able to pour love and care into them. Every parent has to start somewhere, and we offer parenting support, classes and respite services.
#6) Foster kids are unfixable
Children are resilient! Foster parents can make a difference in the life of a child by providing love, structure and a caring environment. The healing process is, in many ways, similar to rehabbing a physical injury. The more educated you are on how to heal and the more support you receive from medications and doctors, the more likely you are to make a full recovery. While the trauma they have experienced should never go ignored or minimized, children can make full recoveries.
#8) Foster kids can’t do “normal things”
Foster children have the right to normalcy, which means that they are able to go on vacations, be in the care of a babysitter when needed, play sports, attend sleepovers, go to summer camp, get a driver’s license and even get a job.
#10) I can’t afford to be a foster parent
Foster parents are reimbursed from the state for the care of a child. The stipend is intended to help with food, personal hygiene products, allowance, gifts, over-the-counter medications and any other expenses related to raising a child. Foster kids are provided with Medicaid for doctor, dental and mental health services. TBHC also has a commissary with donated items that is available to all foster parents during business hours.
#12) All children in foster care are bad, juvenile delinquents, or runaways
ALL children who have been impacted by foster care have experienced trauma. Decades of psychological and neurological research have shown trauma has a profound and lasting impact on children’s brains. Children are not bad. Many children (and plenty of adults, too!) express themselves in ways that frustrate and perplex others in an effort to cope with the trauma they have experienced. Most new foster parents learn in their initial training about common trauma reactions like bedwetting, stashing food under a mattress or even, in extreme cases, running away from home. These are all completely understandable once you look at a child’s past environment. When children (and adults) feel safe and cared for, they will begin to act kindly, respectfully, and thoughtfully toward others.
#14) I won’t have a choice in the child(ren) who is/are placed with me
The primary goal of foster care placements is to place the right child with the right family. All of our families have a voice and decision in the placements they receive. We work hard at assessing the child’s needs, as well as the strengths and experience of our families, to ensure a proper fit between child and family.
#16) I don’t want to disrupt the birth order of my biological children
Research has found zero correlation between birth order and personality traits. What is most important is to consider the complexities of the children in your home and try to understand what challenges they may encounter by having a foster sibling. The personal relationships you have with your kids are the key to knowing what foster kids will work in your home.
#18) Children in foster care cannot achieve the same level of success as their peers
Children and teens in foster care face circumstances and challenges beyond those of many of their peers, including relationship development, educational achievements, and emotional stability. However, these barriers and adverse experiences are not automatic disqualifiers for success. For children and teens in foster care, support from foster parents, case managers, clinical therapists, and volunteers (CASA, ad litems, etc.) provide opportunities for achievement. Whether supporting the needs of an IEP, helping to catch up to academic milestones, healing from trauma, or providing advocacy in the courtroom and beyond, the foster care team provides encouragement so foster children can reach their full potential.
#20) Fostering a child is dangerous because the birth families will present a risk to my family
A child entering foster care will generally have continued visitation and contact with their birth family. The frequency and nature of the visitation will vary depending on the specifics of the case. Foster parents will only be encouraged to have contact with the biological/birth families if it is safe and appropriate for all involved.
#22) I have a baby, so I can’t foster
A new baby in your household will bring many changes but these changes do not necessarily mean you cannot foster. Your ability to provide the care that your baby requires and that of foster children will be considered. It is important that you are not overwhelmed and that neither the baby nor the foster children are left wanting, or needing, more attention and care than you can provide.
written by: Heather Coe