What’s it really like to foster children?
Fostering children comes with a lot of preconceptions that are incorrect. Often used as a storyline in TV shows and movies to make sense of a character’s behavior, foster kids have gotten a bad rap.
All over the world, foster carers are desperately needed to fill the gap in an overstretched system.
If you have questions about fostering children – for yourself or simply out of curiosity – you’re not alone!
Here are seven things you need to know about fostering but are too afraid to ask.
Are all children in care “problem children”?
No. This is the most damaging stereotype facing the fostering industry today. Foster children are not always problem children. That’s a myth stemming from the representation of fostering on TV shows and movies.
Yes, every child is different, and children in care have likely faced a lot of adversity and uncertainty in their short lives. But when you learn more about a child’s life, you learn that their behavior is just a small part of a bigger picture.
Connecting with these children is a rewarding experience that will stay with you forever.
Do you have to adopt a child if they have been with your family for an extended length of time?
No. Many people think you need superhuman powers to be able to give up a child at the end of an extended fostering period.
Simply put, the goal of fostering is to find the child a permanent home that is safe and secure. That does not mean the home is with you. You, as a foster carer, provide a safe and secure environment for the child.
Permanent homes for foster children vary. Sometimes everyone works together to reunite the birth parents with the children family, and other times you work towards placing them with adoptive parents.
Additionally, some foster parents take the foster-to-adopt route, but this isn’t required or expected.
Is it wrong to get paid for fostering?
No. A lot of people are uncomfortable asking how much foster carers get paid. They worry they will be seen as being motivated by money. Foster carers receive money, but this money helps the foster family to care for a child. The money also ensures the kids get a chance to enjoy things they would have done with their birth family.
If a child is not in a foster home, he or she lives in a state-run care home. State care costs a lot more than paying a foster family and is much less beneficial for the child.
Paying foster carers to foster children helps the children.
Do I have to own my own house?
No. If you’ve hesitated to ask about fostering because you don’t own your own house, stop worrying.
Furthermore, your credit score, the state of your finances, and your homeowner status don’t influence whether or not you can foster a child.
Do I have to be a certain age?
No. Fostering is often associated with empty nesters and so young people shy away from inquiring. In reality, there is often no upper or lower age limit for fostering in many places. Private fostering agencies ensure you are healthy and active enough to keep up with a growing child.
Note: In some US states, the minimum age to foster is 21 years old. More information in Resources at the end of this post.
Can I foster if I have a job or am unemployed?
Yes. Fostering is as much a career choice as anything else – it’s just like working in childcare, but you work from home. That said, it varies by fostering agency, as some will prefer for one parent to be home at all times.
Finally, being employed or unemployed shouldn’t impact your ability to foster a child. If the child is school age and you can be there outside of school hours, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to foster a child.
Do I need to have a lot of experience in childcare?
No. The foster care system isn’t only made up of ex-social workers and teachers. People from all kinds of backgrounds are foster carers and bring unique perspectives and experience to the profession.
Even if you don’t have your own children, you can still be considered for fostering. Provided you have some experience of caring for young children, either through your job or through caring for young family members, you could be an ideal foster carer.
And don’t forget about the older children in need of foster care!
AdoptUSKids.org – An excellent website with links to state guidelines and programs for fostering and adopting children.
LGBTQ – The Human Rights Campaign has organized resources for people of any gender expression who wish to explore parenting laws by state, in the USA. (LAP strongly believes in the rights of every person to foster and adopt, regardless of gender expression or identity.)
What Is Foster Care – An excellent article by the National Adoption Agency.
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