Becoming a foster parent is a decision not to be taken lightly, so you will want to do your research. What are the pros and cons of being a foster parent?
The pros of being a foster parent are that you are helping a child in need. You are also able to see if a child is a good fit if later there is an opportunity to adopt. The cons of being a foster parent are that you will be working with children who have suffered some level of trauma in their short lives.
Are you considering becoming a foster parent? I dedicated some time to researching the things that one should think about when deciding to become a foster parent.
The below information that I gathered about becoming a foster parent will make you think twice about the decision you will ultimately make. If you think being a foster parent is a cakewalk, think again.
Of course, there are rewards that one is gifted with when deciding to help a child. All too often some think that because the state in which they live pays them to foster children, they will end up being more financially well off.
Please note that if your desire to make money from fostering a child is stronger than your desire to help a child, then you will be sorely disappointed.
Fostering Before Adoption
My heart just melts every time I hear or see a story of a child or set of siblings being adopted through foster care. So many of these children have been in the foster care system for so long, and for them to finally have a forever home just warms my soul.
Fostering can lead to adoption and is the cheapest way to adopt a child.
Fostering tends to be more forgiving of one’s age when it comes to wanting to welcome a child into your home. The adoption process can take what seems like forever, especially with older prospective parents.
Birth mothers tend to lean toward younger, more active adoptive parents, so fostering a child is a bit quicker process. You are never too old to raise a child, but you do need to also consider all of your options.
Children who end up in the foster care system have many times been either abandoned, neglected, or abused.
These children initially end up in the state’s care and are placed into group homes until a foster home can be found for them.
Once placed into the foster care system, the child’s parents are asked to fulfill certain requirements that will allow them to regain custody of their children.
Some biological parents complete those requirements and some do not.
Just over half of these children will go back to their biological families, while others go live with relatives. Those that have nowhere to go are available for adoption.
Many of these children, like myself, age out of the foster care system into a big, scary world with no support system or safety net to fall into.
Can you imagine being 18 years of age and suddenly you are alone? Those children who age out of the system often have no choice but to sink or swim.
Practicing adulthood can be terrifying when you know that if you fall on your face, there will be no one there to lift you and help dust you off.
There is nothing that says you have to adopt a foster child that is living in your home. Providing a safe and loving home for children during a transitional time is a wonderful blessing all by itself.
Yet, it is nice to know that the adoption opportunity can oftentimes present itself. You may just fall in love with a child and wish to adopt when you had no intentions of adopting before.
Perhaps you would be interested in a related article I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of adoption.
Adopting a foster child is so much more affordable when compared to going through a traditional adoption service.
When you take into consideration the legal fees involved with adoption, the expenses associated with the birth mother, the costs of advertising and paying the services that help adoptive parents, along with possible travel expenses if adopting internationally; these can all add up to an outrageous dollar amount. Let’s face it; adopting a child is expensive.
Adopting a child is a long and many times difficult process. An advantage of fostering is that you can live with a child before taking the adoption plunge.
Adopting a foster child not only provides them with a safe and loving home but also offers them a better chance to succeed in life.
When children age out of the foster care system, they are on their own. Most have no safety net to fall into and no support system to catch them if they fall.
There are certainly pros and cons to being a foster parent, but the pros far outweigh the cons.
Helping Children Who Need a Home
I don’t know about you, but my heart melts when I think about giving love and attention to a child in need. Many of their stories are unfortunate, but we can most certainly try to help them.
If you do not think you have the patience to go through the waiting process of adoption because you want to adopt more quickly, then fostering is a wonderful alternative.
So many of these children remain in the system while others are adopted.
They all matter, and they all need our help. When we welcome these children into our homes and do it out of love, they will forever remember our generosity and kindness.
You can be a foster parent whether you rent or own. Adequate space is required to accommodate the child as well as a place for their belongings.
You may be allowed to foster a child with no spare room if you meet certain requirements.
Do You Make Money Fostering?
Those new to the idea of fostering a child may ask themselves, do you make money fostering a child?
Fostering a child is not a career and should not be viewed as a way to make money. A stipend is provided to compensate for the child’s room and board, clothing, and other daily incidentals. The higher the needs of the child, the higher the reimbursement. This money is for the child.
When considering the pros and cons of being a foster parent, monetary reasons should not be a motivating factor.
As a former foster care child myself, I remember when my foster parent took me shopping with her own money, as the state of Washington would only offer a $100 clothes voucher per year per child. Yes, per year.
I have heard stories of foster parents not spending any of the money on their foster children.
And some birthdays are overlooked and no presents are presented to celebrate a birthday that might or might not be remembered or given attention to.
There is certainly compensation for helping provide for these children, but you won’t get rich doing it. They need our sincere concern not motivated by money.
You may have heard some negative things about the foster care system, but how bad is it really?
Behavior Issues of Foster Children
Depending on the child’s circumstances, they may have some behavioral issues that they will be provided counseling. The expense of this is generally always paid for by the state.
The child will need your transportation to and from those appointments.
Some of these children were born to mothers who were addicted to drugs and who will require special care and time.
You need to be open to getting that picture-perfect child out of your head right now.
If they were not born to an addicted mother, then they are suffering something else that will require just as much attention.
We must also be aware of the unfair myths and stereotypes associated with foster children.
Those unfamiliar with the details of children in foster care mistakenly assume that foster children are somehow damaged goods; that they are unruly, troubled delinquents who may have aggressive tendencies that put them in the “naughty place for naughty children.”
In reality, most of these children have suffered possible neglect, and abuse, or lived in an unsafe or volatile home.
There are cases, too, where the child has special needs that their biological family is incapable of, for whatever reason, meeting the needs of that child.
Granted, foster children removed from traumatic situations or who are dealing with the grief of losing a family will have mental challenges that will require counseling.
True, many will have challenges to overcome, but I think we can all agree that when balancing the pros of cons of being a foster parent, knowing we are helping guide these children through their healing is one of the biggest pros there is.
Drug Babies in Foster Care
Drug addiction in the United States has become an epidemic. Sadly, many pregnant girls and women are addicted to drugs and have babies that are themselves addicted.
The withdrawal these poor babies have to go through is so sad, and they will have many reasons for special care and attention.
Do you have the stamina to handle the challenge of caring for an addicted baby?
One may want to ask themselves what possible challenges will come up down the road, as the effects of the birth mother’s drug addiction may cause permanent damage to the child in many ways.
Getting Attached to Foster Children
I would imagine that getting attached to the children as a foster parent is a given. But is there such a thing as becoming too attached?
After all, these children who are placed into foster homes many times return to their biological families. You share your heart and home, and then they leave.
Foster children become part of your family. They do everything with you that your biological children do. Family movie nights, bedtime storytime, and even going on vacation with your foster child.
If I may, please consider this. These children need you to become too attached.
They have gone through traumas in their young lives that warrant loving these children to the depths that we are capable of.
Yes, it will hurt if we in the end need to say goodbye, but it is exactly what they need to help heal; a loving, supportive environment for the time that you have them.
“I currently foster 2 little girls 10 months and 18 months old. It is the hardest and best thing I have ever done. Just know it will change your life. The classes and what we say are never going to explain how much love and how much pain fostering brings. The moment they crawl(in my case) over and grab you wanting you to hold them. That moment will live in my heart forever. The pain of sending them off to their bio parents is worse than anything I have ever experienced but knowing we were able to make sure they were loved in a bad part of their lives makes it worthwhile.”
Courtesy of a Reddit User at reddit.com
Doctor & Counseling Visits For Foster Children
Due to the unfortunate circumstances that these foster children have had to go through, there will more than likely be counseling visits that they will need to attend.
And as is so typical of growing children, they will also need to see the doctor for wellness checkups, immunizations, and so on.
Be aware that as a foster parent, you will be required to ensure the children under your care have reliable transportation to and from these visits.
Foster Care & Social Worker Challenges
I have heard it said that some social workers will lie to you to get you to accept a child; that they will purposely omit important details that if you knew, you might not want to accept the child into your home.
A recent Reddit post of mine asked the users about their personal experiences, and what they felt were the pros and cons of being a foster parent. Several mentioned their frustrations with social workers.
One may argue that many times the social worker just does not know the depth of a child’s issues until after placement into the home.
Imagine a child was just removed from a home for one reason or another and placed into the foster system. Often the damage to that child goes far deeper than what was discovered on the surface.
For a child who is new to the foster care system, it will take time to uncover the full scope of trauma and damage done to a child.
When considering becoming a foster parent, it is important to remember that many of these children will have some type of behavior issue stemming from the trauma they were removed from.
Do you have the patience to handle these challenges?
I should also point out that social workers in the United States are stretched thin and doing the best that they can under the circumstances that they are provided.
Nutritional Programs (WIC) For Foster Children
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), is a government-run program providing nutritional assistance for those most at risk and in a lower income bracket.
Federal grants are provided to the states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for pregnant, nursing, non-nursing, and women with children under the age of five.
As a foster parent, your foster children are automatically eligible to receive WIC assistance providing they are ages 5 and under, or if you happen to have an underage mother or pregnant child in your care.
Checks or vouchers are provided every month to be used for such things as infant cereals, milk, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, baby foods, formula, fruits and vegetables, dried or canned peas and beans, canned fish, whole wheat bread, etc.
Contact USDA Food & Nutrition Service to find a WIC office near you.
The following is courtesy of a Reddit User from reddit.com When Asked About the Pros and Cons of Being a Foster Parent:
“The bureaucracy is ridiculous. That’s probably one of the most frustrating parts and the decisions that are made are sometimes baffling.
I honestly don’t know how people do this for 30 years, because the paperwork alone is enough to drive you mad.
The kids are fantastic and heart-wrenching. Our son (now 20) was super hard with serious behavioral issues. There are days when I wonder if we made any difference in his life, although I would like to think we have.
Most days I am a full-time parent and a full-time psychologist. You are constantly thinking about bonding, answering their (hard) questions, respecting boundaries, and explaining court cases in a way they understand, all while also doing “normal” parenting things. It can be exhausting some days.
And sometimes, just sometimes, there are these wonderful moments that make your heart sing. Like when my older foster teen came downstairs this week and saw all her surprise birthday decorations and for the first time since she has lived with us, she gave both my husband and me unsolicited hugs.”
Free School Meals For Foster Children
Foster children are automatically qualified for free breakfasts and lunches regardless of their income status.
Their eligibility will remain active for the entire school year, even if they leave the foster care system before the year has ended.
To get your foster children signed up for free meals, you will want to contact the child’s local school. For further information, visit the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.
Clothing & Other Expenses For Foster Children
As mentioned earlier, one of my biggest memories of being in foster care as a teenager was being told by my foster mother that the state of Washington only provided a $100 clothing voucher for each child that was expected to cover their clothing needs for the entire year.
She would then say to me, “But that is OK because you and I are going shopping!” She knew that a $100 clothing allowance was not enough money to cloth a child for the entire year, so she stepped up to the plate and made sure I had what I needed.
You will be provided modest monetary compensation every month that will help assist you with caring for your foster child or children, on top of other services the state provides to you.
Be prepared, however, that you will find you will need to compensate for what the state is unable to help you with.
Support Systems For Foster Parents
I would strongly consider joining a foster parent support group to bounce your experiences.
Maybe you are going through a certain struggle that someone else has already gone through who may be able to offer some helpful tips on how they handled that particular challenge.
Visit Childwelfare.gov for foster parents’ resources in your state.
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.