Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? The idea usually starts with the thought of helping a child in need by providing a safe and loving home. You watch the plight of some children in the news on TV and wonder if you could contribute to their well being. Perhaps you have a heart for children that are abused and neglected because you experienced the same type of home life growing up. What ever has caused you to contemplate foster parenting can also drive you to a final decision.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway of the Children’s Bureau reported that 423,773 children were in the foster care system throughout the United States in 2009. Only 24 percent were in the care of a family member, the rest went to foster homes or institutions.
The primary goal of the foster care system is to reunite children with their families. Many return home within a year, others return home only to be placed in foster care again, and again. It is not unusual to find a child that has grown up in several different foster homes from birth to age eighteen.
Over the past decade a decrease has occurred in the number of children that returned home. In the year 2000, 57 percent of the children leaving foster care returned home while in 2009 the percentage dropped to 51 percent. That means 135,371 children left foster care, but did not return home. They were either adopted, emancipated, or went to live with a guardian.
The case for more foster homes is essential. If a child can not be placed immediately from a dangerous situation where do they go? A case worker is left with the task of finding an immediate placement that can result in a less than favorable choice. Foster homes are needed for emergency placements for children of all ages. These homes can provide a safe haven until a more permanent solution is made. Long term foster homes are needed as well to keep children secure in an environment without fear.
To help you decide if you should open your home consider some of the following;
- The primary goal is to return children home if possible. You may not agree with the decision. The decision does not rest with you.
- Bringing a child into your home and treating them as your own will cost you. You will get attached and you will have to let go.
- Foster children are usually “street-wise” and not used to structure and discipline.
- Many foster children have emotional, mental and physical needs.
- Be sure your children understand that their home life will change. Sometimes it is easier to receive foster children younger than your own. There is a pecking order in families and your children can feel left out.
- Decide on an age that is appropriate for your family and how many children you will foster.
- Some parents have contact with their children that can interfere with your family dynamics.
- Be prepared to register children for school, arrange visits with parents, seek medical treatment, buy clothing, school supplies and toys. Foster children should be treated as family members.
- Consider restricting parental contact at your home. Some family situations are not healthy and better left to a controlled environment.
- Agencies do not give much notice when they have a child for placement. A child can be at your door within an hour of the initial phone call.
If your love for children and desire to reach abused kids is still rising up in you after reading the above negatives, you might be ready to say yes. Start by contacting your local children’s services. You can make a difference in a child’s life and they can make a difference in yours.
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Foster Care Statistics 2009: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/foster.pdf#page=1