Why Do Foster Parents Quit? The Truth Unfolds

The new journey of becoming a foster parent can be exciting. Helping a child in need is heart-warming, but one question rings loud; why do foster parents quit?

Foster parents quit due to a lack of support from their overburdened caseworkers who are spread so thin they are unable to provide the support foster families need. Foster parents also quit due to a lack of education regarding trauma, loss, and grief that most all foster children experience.

There are a variety of reasons why foster parents decide to quit. Yet there are some common struggles that many foster parents experience that some find just too difficult to deal with.

Exhausted young parents resting.

Why Do Foster Parents Quit?

It is often said there aren’t enough competent foster parents nor enough available homes. One may conclude that there aren’t enough people who want to foster children.

They claim that we can’t locate anyone qualified or that there aren’t enough people who want to be foster parents.

More than half of foster parents leave the program during the first year, with a similar drop in the second year.

Because there are fewer appropriate foster families available due to low retention rates, children migrate between foster homes more frequently.

Our children’s pain is compounded by this vicious cycle. Every foster kid has been subjected to some form of abuse, neglect, abandonment, drug exposure, domestic violence, or a combination of the aforementioned.

Even if a child’s home is hazardous, removing them from it is painful in and of itself.

New foster parents struggle to satisfy the needs of the children they care for, yet they are sometimes hustled through insufficient training to get short-term temporary placements.

The long-term repercussions, on the other hand, are untrained parents who are doomed to fail.

When trained parents continue to foster, the child has a more stable foster care experience, drastically improved outcomes for our children, and significant financial savings.

In this article, we will go over a few of the biggest reasons why foster parents quit.

Lack of Support

Foster families are in low supply in many states. Because of increased caseloads, such as those related to the continuing opioid crisis, the shortage is becoming increasingly significant.

Simultaneously, foster families express dissatisfaction with the lack of help they get, which often leads to early termination.

According to research, 30 to 50 percent of foster families leave during the first year, depending on the state.

When it comes to children’s social and emotional needs, they report a lack of support, insufficient representation within the child welfare system, and a sense of helplessness.

Many foster parents believe they are not receiving the annual training they need to be good foster parents. Foster parent burnout, trauma and grief training, and resources were also limited, with only approximately a third of foster parents believing they had received appropriate training in this area.

Also, more than half of foster parents said they wanted to stop being a foster parent at some time, with around 20% saying they wanted to stop more than once.

The Extent of the Child’s Trauma Was Not Realized

Many foster children have had terrible and upsetting experiences, and the memory of these events has become an issue in and of themselves.

After the occurrence, they replay the experience in their heads over and over.

The terror, anxiety, and agony involved with the occurrence, as well as the thoughts, emotions, and sensations of being out of control and threatened, are all re-experienced.

As foster parents, you may see a variety of problematic behaviors, including nightmares, regressive behaviors, sadness, acting out, and so on.

Foster parents must understand trauma to give good care to these children and ensure that they respond appropriately. They must know what it is, how it affects child behavior, and how to respond.

Sadly, there is often a lack of training concerning trauma, loss, and grief to the depths needed to truly help care for a foster child.

Physical and sexual abuse are major sources of trauma for foster children. Other factors that might contribute to childhood trauma include life-threatening diseases and extended absence from caregivers.

The degree of a child’s trauma reactions can be influenced by the adversities they face for a long time following the trauma, such as a succession of various placements or separation from a caregiver, as well as the resources accessible to them.

Some trauma survivors recover on their own in a matter of weeks with the right assistance, while others need longer.

Many children suffer from mental problems as a result of traumatic events, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a particularly devastating reaction to trauma.

If left untreated, PTSD can lead to academic challenges, relationship issues, other psychiatric illnesses, drug misuse, and physical sickness in children.

Even if they do acquire PTSD, prompt and effective therapy can frequently help to minimize the severity of stress reactions, if not completely eradicate them.

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Common Behaviors Associated with Trauma

The effects of trauma tend to linger and do not always go away completely. Yet over time, healing can begin, especially with the right amount of understanding and professional help.

Different age groups express their reactions to trauma in a variety of ways.

Up to Age 5

Children in this age group may be afraid of being removed from their parents and may weep excessively or become clingy as a result. Bed-wetting and fear of darkness are examples of behavior regression that can occur at a young age.

The parents’ reactions to the traumatic experience have a significant impact on children of this age.

Between 6 to 11

Extreme disengagement, disruptive conduct, and/or difficulty paying attention may be displayed by the youngster. Regressive behaviors, unreasonable worries, impatience, school refusal, nightmares, sleep issues, outbursts, and fighting are all possible.

The youngster can complain of stomach pains or other body ailments that aren’t caused by anything medical. Schoolwork is frequently harmed. Depression, worry, guilt, and emotional numbness are all common symptoms.

Ages 12 to 17

Emotional numbness, avoidance of memories of the traumatic incident, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, substance misuse, peer difficulties, and antisocial conduct are all possible responses in children.

Withdrawal and loneliness, as well as physical problems, suicidal thoughts, school avoidance, academic degradation, sleep issues, and bewilderment, are all typical symptoms.

Older children may also experience a great deal of remorse for failing to avert damage or death and may have vengeance fantasies that obstruct rehabilitation.

Things You Can Do to Help

  • A child will find your nurturing nature to be very comforting.
  • Be open to the dialog while also being honest. Most of the time, a child’s worries and imaginations are far more terrifying and unsettling than the facts.
  • Avoid particular activities if you see heightened symptoms in a child during specific circumstances or after exposure to them.
  • Reach out to your caseworker if you feel you need additional guidance, or if you feel your foster child requires more professional help.

Make an effort to learn as much as you can about the trauma, loss, and grief that most all foster children have endured.

This will help provide you with the tools needed to effectively support your foster child in the best way possible.

Difficult Time Forming Attachments Only to Have the Children Leave

Attachment is the most important thing a child needs when going through trauma, since it is the major aspect that allows them to develop emotionally, spiritually, physically, cognitively, and academically.

It’s the difference between those who progress normally and those who suffer lasting harm to their coping abilities, life choices, social relationships, emotional stability, and mental health, according to child development specialists.

Some foster parents find that becoming attached to a foster child and then seeing them go is just too difficult and heartbreaking.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a parent who does not experience heartbreak.

Whether you’re a biological, adoptive, or foster parent, none of us come out of it undamaged. We all carry the risk of losing a kid after years of effort, as much as no one wants to think about it.

They might run away. They may despise us and become distanced from us. They could live only a few years. 

Even if it is difficult to say goodbye, we must prioritize the interests of others over our own; the most significant expense we can measure is that of the child.

Our first worry should be what they could gain or lose.

Fear and loss are inherent aspects of parenting and life in general. So, if you’re thinking about being a foster parent, I implore you to choose to love the children.

Allow what they would lose without your care to scare you more than what you would lose when you bond with them.

Overloaded Caseworkers

Overworked caseworkers and high turnover rates are common problems in the child protection system.

When caseworkers are stretched thin, they are limited in their availability in being able to adequately assist foster parents.

According to the Child Welfare League of America, caseworkers’ capacity to offer the necessary assistance and achieve positive results for children and families is harmed by unmanageable workloads.

Overburdened caseworkers have less time to devote to each family, and as a result, caseworker-client relationships suffer.

The typical caseload for child protection professionals is between 24 and 31 children, while it varies from agency to agency and state to state.

According to a 2005 study in Illinois, caseworkers could only handle 15 cases a month to meet all legal and policy requirements.

High caseloads not only harm work quality but also frequently result in emotional tiredness and job discontent.

Caseworker turnover is mostly caused by these issues, as well as feelings of overburden and ineffectiveness.

For social agencies, staff turnover is costly.

Among the various expenses associated with caseworker turnover include recruitment and training expenditures, worker overtime, worker separation, inability to fulfill federal performance requirements, and processing changes in placement.

Caseload stress should be addressed by recruiting enough caseworkers to allow for and assign manageable workloads.

Caseworkers in child welfare who are progressively given a full caseload are more likely to stay than those who are given a full caseload right away.

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

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.