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The Myths of Foster Care
Bridget Leonard, Operations Director with Kindred Family Focus

Foster care seems to be a mystery to many people, with quite a few myths following the name of foster care around. What do you think of that?
I think there are so many misperceptions about foster care. It’s important to dispel some of them. For instance, unless you are designated as an emergency foster home, you will not have kids dropped off at your home at any hour of the day or night. You are presented with information about a child or children, and you can say yes or no. 

What if after all that time of getting to know the child, you don’t want to say goodbye?
What I hear most from potential foster parents is, “I don’t know if I could give them back.” This is a hard one. Somehow, you do, you grieve, and you heal, sometimes it’s not a forever goodbye and the foster parent stays in touch with the youth and the youth’s family. Those who have provided foster care for many years have the same theme when they are asked this question: It’s hard, it hurts, but you do the best you can with the time you have and hope that you have made a positive difference in the child’s life.

What other challenges come up frequently when speaking to potential foster parents?
Another common question I get from potential foster parents is, “Do I treat them like I treat my birth kids? If by this they mean, you love them, teach them, nurture them, laugh with them, help them homework, yes. But, because of the trauma, neglect, abuse and/or grief they have experienced, you must be open to altering your parenting approaches. It’s more about being curious and learning than about having all the answers. It’s a process to get to know a child.

What are some things potential foster parents would need to pay close attention to?
Usually, discipline techniques that work for birth kids don’t work for kids in foster care. Why? There’s already a relationship with birth kids, there’s a trust, a knowing of what’s coming, a son or daughter knows what a certain tone of voice means, when a parent means business, etc. A foster child may be used to acting as the parent, or relying only on themselves, or may have trouble trusting anyone. It’s pretty hard to focus on a math test when you’ve had to focus on survival, basic needs, safety, and when your life has been pretty unpredictable. Patience and consistency are important aspects of foster parenting.  

Overall, the common foster care myths come down to:

  • I can’t have a full-time job; I have to stay home
    • TRUTH: You can definitely have a full-time job as a foster parent. But flexible schedules are really helpful as foster youth may have appointments or visits that require extra time.
  • I don’t have any choices on the preference of children I could take in
    • TRUTH: You have the choice to accept or turn down any potential placement.
  • After I get foster kids, I will be on my own with no help
    • TRUTH: There are a variety of supports such as support groups and constant available guidance from your social worker.
  • I couldn’t care for “those kids” (stigma that these are bad/problematic children)
    • TRUTH: Children in foster care did not end up in foster care by any fault of their own. We ask foster parents to see a child through a trauma lens and see behaviors not as something wrong with the child but something that happened to the child.
  • The agency will withhold information
    • TRUTH: The agency is extremely open with all information concerning the children in their care.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in taking the first steps to licensure, call an agency near you today!


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The Library
A list of resources for parents
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Parenting Partner
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Family Matters
(Q&A with Dr. Michelle Murray, Ph.D.)