When I am asked, I wrestle with how to answer the question of why I became, and continue to be, a foster parent. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as altruism — or giving without expecting anything in return. When I give to my foster children, I receive all kinds of things — not the least of which is a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. Some might feel a moral superiority, others may feel brave. Everyone benefits in some way from giving of themselves.
With that in mind, there are still good reasons and not-so-good reasons to give of yourself as a foster parent.
Here are three excellent reasons to become a foster parent:
1. To be a great parent to a child who needs one.
You want to parent in a loving, considerate and unique way. Period.
2. You believe in thinking globally but acting locally.
Maybe you’ve thought that in another life you’d have liked to join the Peace Corps? Well, there are children in foster care in all 50 states who need a family. Likely, there are many foster children in your own town. Fostering is an opportunity to grow roots and become engaged within your community beyond volunteering at a soup kitchen on Saturday mornings (although there’s nothing wrong with that!).
3. You are fortunate enough to have resources to share.
Resources need not be money. You are probably more resource-rich than you think. There’s your education, social capital, life skills, and your own network of friends and family that can power up a foster child’s self-esteem and future opportunities.
And then … there are the not-so-good reasons for becoming a foster parent, including these three:
This is a touchy subject but it’s the area in which I see foster parents experience heartbreak the most. If you’ve struggled with infertility, chances are you want a baby to call your own. However, the goal of foster care is almost always reunification and not adoption. Even if parents abandon their baby at the hospital and the child is placed with you on an adoption plan, social services still has to try to locate the child’s parents and help out the mom and dad for months or even years with the goal of reunifying the family first. Foster care is definitely not a back door to adoption.
2. To proselytize a religion.
While you may feel a religious calling to care for foster children, it’s considered a big no-no for you to try to convert them. Even if you go to church on Sunday mornings you may not be allowed to take the child if the parents don’t approve. In fact, you may be required to take them to a conflicting religious place of worship on a weekly basis. If this doesn’t sound like something you can do, request to receive children whose family maintains the same religion as your own.
3. To make a living.
People frequently ask me if it’s really true that some foster parents get rich off of having several foster kids and my answer is “oftentimes.” While I only receive $600 a month for my foster daughter, imagine if I had six foster kids. And if a few (or all of them) have special needs, which carries with it a greater stipend, one could easily be collecting more than $10,000 a month.