Before I became a foster parent I didn’t really know what I was signing up for. I wasn’t naive — I knew it would be one of the hardest things I’d ever do — I just didn’t know how exactly. There are some hard truths that every foster parent has to accept when they sign on for the job. These differ from family to family, but here are some that my foster parenting friends and I have encountered. If you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent, don’t let this list discourage you — I can attest that in the end, it IS worth it!
1. There’s a good chance you’re going to be falsely accused of child abuse.
2. You’re going to be the last person considered when it comes to scheduling meetings.
In almost all cases, the goal of foster care is to help the child’s parents get back on their feet and that’s the primary job of the case worker. Meetings are scheduled to accommodate the foster child’s parents first. The foster agency case workers, clinicians, and other staff have busy schedules to work around as well. Typically, foster parents are informed of meetings and appointments with little leverage to reschedule.
3. Sometimes you’ll feel regarded merely as a babysitter for the government.
Technically, that’s really all you are. Given the personal sacrifice, it’s a harsh reality when it hits. Foster parents are not the decision-makers. Oftentimes you’re the last person consulted on the child’s permanency goal. Any medical, educational, or travel/vacation decision must go through multiple channels of approval seeking.
4. Many times the children you care for will have unknown medical, behavioral, and/or developmental histories.
Get used to saying “I don’t know.” When a doctor asks if your child has ever been hospitalized, you’ll likely have to say “I don’t know.” When the school asks if your foster child has ever been tested for (fill in the blank) it will be another “I don’t know.” It’s best to be as open and prepared for everything as you can be.
5. You CAN handle it when a child you love is returned to his or her parents.
It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do and it may feel impossible to let go, but you can do it. So many people tell me that they can’t be a foster parent because they would be too heartbroken when a child goes home. My response? Someone has to do it. Just imagine the heartbreak the child experiences. Then imagine where that child might have been if you hadn’t become a foster parent because you didn’t want to get hurt. It’s worth it, and you can do it.
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