Foster homes are in short supply around the United States, but families aren’t stepping forward to help. Why is that? For the most part, it’s because of false statistics people have come to believe about foster care.
It’s time to clear some of those myths up so that people can feel the freedom to open their homes and so that foster kids can have better opportunities.
MYTH #1: Foster kids are dangerous.
Here’s the thing. A small percentage of foster children DO engage in behavior that would be dangerous to foster parents or siblings. HOWEVER, that percentage is pretty small, and those children are only placed into homes that are equipped to take care of them. Those homes have more training to go through, they’re allowed to have fewer foster children, and they receive a higher stipend for their efforts.
Taking in base-level foster children will most likely not put your biological children in any dangerous situations, as long as you’re careful and aware.
MYTH #2: Foster care would require one parent to be at home full-time.
Not true at all. Many foster families have both parents working. One of my best friends is a SINGLE foster mom with an Autistic son. She works 40 hours a week and makes her life work just fine.
MYTH #3: Foster kids expose biological children to undesirable words/behaviors.
Your biological children WILL be exposed to things you’d rather not have them exposed to. But you know what’s amazing? When we don’t keep our kids in a bubble of protection, we can proactively teach them about good vs bad choices. We can explain the “bad” stuff to them before their peers at school do.
My kids have learned what sex is before they should’ve because our foster daughter told them (yikes!), but we sat them down and talked to them about it and the situation blew over.
Our kids have heard every curse word in the book thanks to some teenage boys, but you know what? My kids don’t use any of them. They know that mom and dad don’t say those words, and they’re smart enough to know that the boys using them are feeling angry and acting disrespectful. They don’t wish to mimic that behavior. In fact, I think it has pushed them further away from risky behavior because they’ve witnessed firsthand how detrimental it can be.
To our kids, there’s less of a temptation to sneak around and do “bad” things because they know the other side of it. It’s not glamorous to them.
MYTH #4: Foster care requires a married couple.
Nope. Like I said, one of my best friends is a single foster mom. My cousin is also a single foster mom. I went through training with a same-sex couple. I also know that in my state (Missouri) foster parents do not have to be married, but do have to prove that they’re stable and ready to take in children.
MYTH #5: Fostering requires parenting experience.
Wrong again. The agency that licenses you puts you through training to take care of your foster children, and you can learn on the go just like EVERY OTHER PARENT ON EARTH does. It’s hard and you’ll make mistakes, but kids are forgiving beyond anything you can imagine.
Odds are, your worst parenting days will probably still be better than the situation they came from.
MYTH #6: Foster parents need to have their debt paid off.
This is a funny one to me. You don’t have to have a bank account full of money. You don’t need to have your debt paid off. You don’t have to own your cars or own your home or have a fenced-in yard. You don’t need to have anything other than a relatively clean, safe place with enough space for a kid to fit in.
Yes, you need to be able to financially take care of them, but the state does provide you with a subsidy to help with MOST costs.
MYTH #7: Foster homes need to be “nice” and spacious.
NOPE! I have three girls bunked into one bedroom right now (with an open bed still left open) and none of us feel cramped. We have a 1400 sq ft house with three kids, three dogs, and lots of crap. There are homes smaller than ours that foster with more children.
It’s all about making your house a place of peace, regardless of how much room you have.
MYTH #8: Saying goodbye is too hard.
I will hate this reasoning for as long as I live. I am understanding when people say it to me as their reason for not fostering because I really do understand, but I hate it because if they knew the other side of foster care, they’d never use this as a reason.
It will hurt like hell when you tell your foster kids goodbye. The first time we told one of our favorite boys goodbye when we were house parents at a group home, I WEPT uncontrollably for several hours. I could barely get the words out to tell him I loved him because I was snotting and sobbing so hard. And that boy ended up in jail shortly after we lost him. He attempted suicide, then ran away, then was missing for several months.
It was awful, but I would NEVER EVER EVER regret the time we gave to him. He needed us to love him without conditions. While he was with us, he was safe, healthy, and happy. Saying goodbye and watching him spiral after that was hard, but it will never change how positively we influenced him for a season. And the mark he left on our hearts will last forever.
When our current foster girl goes home, I know I’ll have to mark off my calendar for about a week to grieve (literally, not exaggerating), and grief will come around often after that, but I will never regret taking her in. Our lives are fuller because of her, and I’m not selfish enough to say that my pain when she’s gone is more important than her pain before she came into our home.
MYTH #9: Watching kids go back to their biological families feels heartbreaking and unfair.
The majority of the time, when a foster child finally reunifies with their biological family, the parents have proven through several steps over the course of time that they are able to parent efficiently. The reunification is something to be celebrated. We pray for it, dream of it, and work hard to achieve it.
Yes, sometimes kids go back to parents who are not ready for them, but that’s not for us to worry about. We advocate when we can, but ultimately, we have to trust our caseworkers, attorneys, and judges to keep kids safe.
If the parents mess up again, the kids will come into care again because they’re monitored carefully after going home. We MUST keep working for their benefit, even if we’re afraid it won’t last forever.
MYTH #10: Walking through trauma with foster kids is too painful.
Some people have more sensitive hearts and feel more pain when they have to hold a child’s hand who has been hurt. It DOES hurt.
But you know what’s worse than us feeling that pain with them? Them feeling that pain alone.
How dare we avoid holding their hands because we don’t want to hurt too? How dare we.
MYTH #11: Foster parents don’t get to choose who lives in their home or how many children live with them.
You ALWAYS have a say in which foster kids come into your home, whether or not they stay if they’re being unsafe, and how many children and which genders will come in. You always get that choice. No one forces you into anything.
I know caseworkers who are pushy and use guilt trips to get foster parents to take placements they wouldn’t be compatible with, but not all of them are that way. And even if they’re pushy, you can still say no. You can always say no.
But our fear of not having the guts to say no should never outweigh the need for someone to say yes.
We need more parents to say yes. Kids who come from broken homes need us to say yes.