Becoming a foster parent isn’t a decision to make on a whim.
All sorts of training and licensing await parents who wish to become foster parents. They must consider how it will change their current family structure. They have to be sure it’s something they want to do.
Beyond that, folks who consider foster parenting can be apprehensive for myriad other reasons. Adult & Child Health’s Therapeutic Foster Care team frequently consults with parents and prospective parents about their concerns. One of the most common worries they hear goes something like this:
“I’m not sure my heart will be able to handle it whenever the foster child has to leave our home.”
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The A&C foster care team processes 400 to 450 placement requests each month, on average. The agency operates at 98 percent capacity most of the time, which means it doesn’t have enough families to handle some requests.
We talked with Julie Stewart, Adult & Child Health’s director of welfare services, and members of the Therapeutic Foster Care team. They shared the most common questions they receive – and concerns they hear – from prospective foster parents.
Here are six reasons you shouldn’t let your fears about foster parenting dissuade you from taking the next step and becoming a foster parent:
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1. You have more control than you think.
“Most people considering this are not clear on what their role would really be,” Stewart said. “Being able to have the final say about whether or not to accept a child into their home is 100% in the hands of the foster parents. The goal of everyone involved, most importantly a youth needing placement, is to ensure there is a good match.”
The foster care team will listen to the criteria foster parents believe will be a good fit for their home, based on age and gender. Team members will then contact parents if they have a situation available that fits their desires.
2. You have resources here to help.
“You’re not doing this alone,” one TFC team member said. “You have a team behind you.” The TFC team offers a variety of resources, from free in-house training for licensing foster parents to simply a network of support. Also, A&C offers primary care, mental and behavioral health assistance, school-based support and a bevy of other resources. “We’re a one-stop shop,” another TFC team member said.
3. Think about the child’s future.
“You never know what kind of impact you’re going to have five or six years from now, but you can have an impact now,” one TFC team member said. “You’re getting something out of it, and they’re getting something out of it.”
Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Contact our Community Outreach Development Specialist, Lynn Farmer, at 317-893-0207, ext. 1207 or email [email protected].
4. The rewards outweigh the sadness at the end.
The feeling of losing a foster child when their allotted time is up scares parents, TFC team members said. Their response? “Understand you’re going to provide something so much bigger than how you’re going to cry when you’re going to leave. There’s never too much love. You can’t love a kid too much. Allow yourself to feel.”
Foster parent Tina Davidson added, “If your heart is broken when they leave that house, you’re the type of person who should be fostering.”
5. Where you are in life right now doesn’t matter as much as you might think.
Foster parents come in various ages and stages of life. Some are married, others are single. Some are cohabitating, some are LGBTQ. We license a wide variety of foster parents because we believe this diversity will provide the best placements for kids. We encourage and support foster parents regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender. If parents are at least 25 years old, can support themselves without public assistance, have reliable transportation and a valid driver’s license, sufficient bedroom space and all household members pass background checks, they’re eligible!
6. We need you.
Our foster families are consistently at about 98 percent capacity, which means our current foster families probably don’t have the space to take on additional children. The more families that are available, the greater the likelihood we can place siblings together. When our foster family base is more diverse, we can more easily match a child’s needs to a family. The more families we have dispersed throughout our service areas, the more likely we can place children in or near their own communities and avoid disrupting positive familiar connections for the child, like schools, peers, and positive role models.