Five Myths About Foster Parenting
Many people have misconceptions about how foster parenting works. Pam Allen, Foster Home Licensing Specialist, addresses these myths in the article below.
MYTH #1: “I could never do that.”
While fostering children is not for the faint of heart, it is not an impossible task and brings joy to families. Many families find, after their first placement, that they are surprisingly strong, creative, flexible and resilient! This is not to say that fostering children is for everyone, but many families are equipped to foster children. It is true that foster parents become attached to the children they care for. Preparing them to return home is not an easy process. In the end, it is a celebration when a family heals and a child returns home.
MYTH #2: “DHHS just wants to remove children.”
No one who understands how the Child Welfare system works makes this statement. Child Protective Services (CPS) must petition a court first for a child to be removed from their family. This takes place after an investigation of the family in question. The state has clear criteria that must be met before a court hearing requesting removal takes place. Removals are emotionally challenging for the children, parents, extended family and even for the CPS worker. When removals are necessary, the goal of the Child Welfare system is to provide services to the family in order to make reunification possible.
MYTH #3: “Foster children are broken and cannot be fixed.”
Foster children have been through terribly traumatic events in their young lives. These events and the skills children develop to cope often leave a child with confusing and difficult emotions and behaviors. Healing happens when a foster family can understand this and provide patience, flexibility, consistency and security for a foster child. It is also important for the family to engage with the professional team and accept support and guidance from case managers, therapists, behavioral aids and other team members. Healing happens over time.
MYTH #4: “Foster children are a bad influence on and can harm my own children.”
Each foster child has a unique set of needs and behaviors. Close supervision of a foster child, especially when first placed, is wise for many reasons. This is not to say that a foster child is going to harm or influence your other children in a negative way. As the parent, you know your children best and can make the best decisions about what needs your family can meet for a foster child. The decision to accept placement of a foster child takes careful consideration before a placement is made. While you are the expert on your own children, the team at St. Vincent Catholic Charities has several decades of combined work with children from traumatic pasts; we are here to guide and support our families in the best way to meet the needs of all children in your home.
MYTH #5: “Younger children are easier and less damaged.”
Even the youngest of children who are placed in foster care have experienced trauma and can have difficult conditions and behaviors to care for. Babies are often exposed to harmful conditions even while in the womb. On the other hand, older foster children may have few, if any, behaviors depending on their circumstances and often are not as difficult as the rumors about foster children would suggest.
Overall, every circumstance is different. You know your family best. The licensing process includes time, training and conversation to equip families to make the best choices.
The fact is, there are not enough foster families. Your family may be just what a child needs while waiting to return home!
For more information about providing foster care, call Pam Allen, Licensing Specialist at St. Vincent Catholic Charities, at 517-323-4734 ext. 1614 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.