Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Let’s be really honest right off the bat, being a foster parent isn’t popular by ANY means.
Foster care and foster parents do not exactly have a great reputation in our culture. How many times have you turned on the television only to hear about a horrific crime revolving around a horrifying orphanage experience or crazy foster parents?
Parenting children who’ve gone into foster care is often resented. Sometimes it’s so bad you don’t even want to tell people you are a foster parent because of all the backlash that comes with it. I’ve heard every judgmental comment possible about why I do foster care or how horrible foster children are in my 7 plus years of doing this.
Yes…bad things happen in foster care, there is no denying that. But you know what?…Bad things happen in biological homes all the time, which is why there is a foster care system to begin with. But do we assume all biological families are horrible? Bad things happen in all occupations…but not all employees are judged because their co-worker made bad choices. Tell me this…how many times have you turned on the t.v. only to hear about another child being molested by a church hierarchy? Do we judge all the church goers because their pastor/priest made bad decisions? No… we don’t because that really isn’t fair.
So why are all of us foster parents judged off of another foster parents horrible choices? Why are the children who are in the foster care system judged so harshly? They are in the system not by their choice, but yet they take a lot of judgment from the world. Most people automatically assume that if a child, especially over the age of 5 is in the foster care system that they are a troubled child. Yes…there are troubled children in the system, but not all of them are.
So, why even consider being a foster parent? What is being a foster parent like? Most people don’t even know the answers to these questions because they can’t get past their stereotypes and judge mental attitudes. There’s true beauty behind the bad reputation that only foster parents will know and experience. Being a foster parent is not easy by any means, but it is rewarding.
Here are some positive things about being a foster parent that most people don’t know or understand.
Foster Parents Are In Need:
Overwhelmingly, the children who go into foster care are the victims of either abuse and/or neglect by their parent or legal guardian. At any given time, there are approximately half a million children in foster care nationally and roughly 60,000 under the age 18 in California. This does not include children ages 18-21 in the extended programs and children whom chose to age out of care. In Los Angeles County alone, the number of foster homes has decreased from more than 8,000 in 2005 to less than 4,000 by 2015. The need for new foster homes is increasing and the approval process to be approved is getting stricter.
Contrary to stereotypes, these children aren’t monsters sent to terrorize homes, foster parents and bio kids. I’ve seen and dealt with a wide range of foster children across all age groups. Many children are very small, some even newborn. Some have been beaten. Some have been neglected. Some have been molested. Some are malnourished and underfed. Some are addicted to drugs from the womb. And there’s even some that come with almost no baggage.
Children with known, extreme behaviors typically aren’t sent to foster parents, they are placed in different level/type of care. Some of the teens have straight A’s, and some struggle to make it through the school day. Some of the teens are happy, and some are sad and angry. Some of the teens are just crying out for moms and dads to love them. They are all kids who have been hurt and endured pain that most people couldn’t imagine. They are needing a family to love and guide them and accept them for who they are and where they come from.
You Can Be An Amazing Foster Parent If You Want To:
Yes, some foster parents and foster agencies have a bad reputation. You don’t have to be a horrible foster parent or involved with a shady agency. You can be amazing, rescuing children from reoccurring trauma and shining a bright light into the world.
Those of us who truly want to make a difference in children’s lives can and will reinvent what foster care looks like. There are more good stories out there than bad and we need to get them circulating. There really is dedicated foster parents out there. Ones who do it to make an impact on children’s lives. I know because I am one of them. As soon as a child is placed in my care that becomes my child. I do anything and everything for that child as if I birthed them myself.
I make sure their time with me wether a short stay or a permanent stay is safe, secure and as happy as possible. No, it’s not all hearts and butterflies and it does get tiring sometimes but knowing how many little lives I’ve impacted keeps me going. The reward of having many children call me mom…is priceless.
It’s A Life-Changing Experience:
Much like biological parenting, foster parenting is life-changing. Besides the normal consuming activities of parenting young children or teens, foster parents have extra responsibilities of meeting state requirements and caring for children with acute/special needs. Records need to be kept, visits need to be made, medicine dispensed, therapy appointments to attend and social workers and supervisors regularly visiting your home. This is all a daily part of your life. It’s not easy, but it’s good. It keeps the children safe.
Taking care of foster children takes a whole heart, willing to accept the payoff of laughter, pain, sorrow, joy, and even self-improvement. Watching an abused child gain the ability to smile and laugh again is priceless. Seeing a teen comfortable in her own skin for the first time is worth the mood swings. Ice cream cones, football games, and trips to the playground are the perfect distractions from the difficulties of being a foster parent.
Foster care changes children and foster care changes foster parents. The personal growth that comes from being a foster parent is life-changing.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to like comment and share! I love to hear feedback and personal experiences.