A temporary service provided by states for children who cannot live with their families. Children in foster care may live with relatives, unrelated foster parents, or in group homes, residential care facilities, and emergency shelters.
The first thing to know is that not every person should, or could become a foster parent, and that’s okay. But just because being a foster parent isn’t for everyone, does not mean it isn’t for you. Countless people who were too afraid, too busy, or thought they didn’t have what it takes turned out to be incredible foster parents who discovered so much life, joy, and meaning.
So why foster? Well, because you are needed.
- At any given time, there are roughly 435,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
- 10% of these children are living in group homes (or Residential Treatment Centers), aka, America’s acceptable version of orphanages.
- Over 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted out of foster care.
- Every year approximately 23,000 children will age out of foster care.
- Close to 36% of youth who age out will experience homelessness by the age of 26.
- 88% of trafficking victims were in foster care.
This sounds like a big problem, but in reality if less than 1% of able-bodied Americans became registered foster parents, then we would have a surplus of foster homes. And although it’s no secret that the foster care system has its problems, studies have shown that a stable foster home can have as much as a 63% decrease in the risk of a child developing behavioral problems.
You may still not be sure if this is for you, and that’s okay. But before you decide, check out these real stories of people who have already done it.
QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
The idea of becoming a foster parent can be scary and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. You probably have a million questions and legitimate concerns running through your head, and you are not alone. But, something we’ve repeatedly found in our work is that a person’s experience in fostering ends up being much different than how they imagined, and their worst fears are rarely realized.
Here are some stories highlighting people that have had these same questions and their experiences in fostering. We won’t sugar coat the very real difficulties of foster care, but we will hopefully debunk some of the stereotypes and fears that tend to follow this conversation. Our goal is to give you a realistic snapshot of foster care so that you can have reasonable expectations.
Once you make the decision to become a foster parent, you will absolutely need help, resources, and community surrounding you. You may ask: How do you even get started? What is the process? Who can I trust?
Rest assured you are not the first person to feel this way, and we are here to help you take your first steps and hopefully get you to your first placement.
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
One of the best ways to prepare for your first foster placement, or your fifth, is by learning. Foster care is such a nuanced experience because each and every child is unique; coming from different circumstances and having different needs. The more you can understand and be prepared for what a child might need, the less you will feel like you are in over your head. Although no one can ever prepare you for everything, there are so many incredible resources, training materials, and people with experience that can help you navigate helping a child with potential trauma.
Here are some of the stories and interviews that can help you be a better foster parent or support someone who is.
Now that you have completed your training and received your license, you are ready to take a placement. You may feel nervous about the first time you welcome a child into your home or may question what you can do to help a child feel welcome. Below you will find stories and resources to help you as you accept that first (or tenth) placement.
Support at home
There is a statement that almost every foster parent will say at some point, “This is really hard.” Even if you’ve read all the books, attended all the classes, or had an extra glass of wine, there are going to be days when you feel like you can’t keep going.
The first and most important thing you can do right now is let go of the guilt. We can assure you that no matter how hopeless things have gotten or how shameful the thoughts are running through your head, you are not alone. So many people before you have felt or thought these same things; even the thing you would be too ashamed to share with anyone.
Whether you are struggling just a little or feel like you can’t go on, we have some resources and stories that can address specific problems or just inspire you to make it through the day.