If you want to get a realistic picture of what’s it like to be a foster parent, the best thing to do is speak with the folks who are living it.
Kids enter foster care through no fault of their own–typically because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and are unable to continue living safely with their families.
Foster parents are needed in every part of our country. Being a successful foster parent is hard work. It requires opening yourself and your home. But it can also be the most gratifying work you will ever consider. The heart of it, of course, involves working directly with children and their families. But foster care also involves partnering with social workers, schools, and community resources to meet the needs of an infant, child, or teen. Different types of people can make good foster parents, since we all have our own special talents. But keep in mind that foster parenting is not for everyone. What’s it like to be a foster parent? Read on.
Question: What do you say to people who tell you that they “could never foster or adopt” and then ask why or how you’re able to do it?
Julie Cotton: I get this question all the time. People say, “I could never give them [children in foster care] back,” and my response is that they are worth a broken heart.
Aryelle Caruso: I also get this a lot. My response is that I am not afraid to grieve, and that these children deserve my attachment to them — even if it means I am broken-hearted when they leave.
Kandy Jo Fort: People say to me, “I’d get too attached.” Well, I do get attached, but that means I’m doing my job!
How do you respond to someone concerned that they could never give a nonbiological child the love he or she deserves?
Sally Rhodes: We are new to fostering and have our first placement. I am already getting these questions. I tell them that it’s been easier than I thought to love a child not born to you. This kid is starving for love and attention. We are enjoying getting to know him and his personality, his likes and dislikes, sleep patterns, what makes him laugh and what upsets him. It’s a challenge some days, but I know God placed him here in our lives for a reason.
Some day we hope to adopt that special kid or kids that God sends our way, but for now we are taking it one day at a time. Fostering or adopting is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those who have a strong heart for kids.
Some adults hesitate to help children in need of families because they’re afraid they can’t give the kids all that they need. For a different perspective on that issue, let’s hear from some of those children.
What would you tell someone who is concerned about fostering a child in their home?
Courtney (age 10): Not all kids are the same. Some kids are mean because they don’t know right from wrong — their families left them on their own and said, “Go get a hot dog for your meal.” They see their mom and dad cussing and drinking and they think that’s how it should be. Or they might seem mean because they don’t know how to do what you’re asking.
If you adopt them and show them what’s right, then that’s how they’ll turn out. More kids need to be adopted so they won’t be moved from home to home, and when they grow up they’ll know how to [act] and how to take care of kids. Maybe if you meet a child in foster care it will help you. Or, pay attention to kids in foster care so you’ll know what to do.
Madeline (age 11): All kids have their own stories and ways of doing things. Some have backgrounds that aren’t that bad, but some are bad. You have to treat children with compassion and be patient with them. Kids in foster care are normal kids, but something in their past has affected their present. You need to help them have a better future.
What do children in foster care need most?
Madeline: They need to feel loved and cared for. What made me feel safe was knowing that I could do what I needed to do. Sometimes you need to go to your room and be quiet. Sometimes you need to talk about things. When you get to feel comfortable, it helps that people will spend time and listen to the stuff you need to talk about.
Courtney: Getting to do things that normal kids do — kids just want to be normal like other kids. They feel safe not having to move and make new friends all the time.
Kids need a safe and quiet place to figure out who they are. They just need time. That’s what they need: time.