Foster parenting is quite a bit different than parenting biological children. For those who are new to foster care, there may be a few surprising realities. Here are some of the most common myths that foster parents encounter when they venture into this whole new world.
Myth: My foster child will be grateful I rescued him.
A removal from biological parents, or even previous foster parents, can feel like a kidnapping to the child. You won’t be able to expect that she will immediately run into your arms, call you mommy, and express her gratefulness at rescuing her from a horrible situation. It could be quite the opposite. Sometimes, foster children resent their foster parents initially, particularly if they had developed an attachment to a prior caregiver. Some children adjust quickly; others take longer. Some may seem to adjust right away and then act out months down the road. You may not hear a “thank you” right away, but know that your efforts are never in vain.
Myth: All biological parents are bad.
This is not necessarily true. While some children have been rescued from abusive situations, others were simply taken away because their parents were unable to care for them, perhaps because of addiction or because of illness. Children can also be taken away when there is medical neglect—for instance, if a child has a physical situation that requires medical care, and the parent fails to take them to the doctor.
Sometimes, poverty is a factor. When the parent lacks adequate access to necessary resources, such as food and shelter, there is the very real possibility of losing their children. A little over half of foster children are eventually reunited with their biological parents. Many biological parents love their children and work hard to be reunited.
Myth: All foster children are beyond repair.
Children are incredibly resilient. Yes, many of them have experienced unimaginable trauma and abuse, but given a healthy, loving, and stable environment, they can become healthy, functioning contributors to society. Love really can solve a multitude of ills. There are many success stories of foster parenting.
Myth: I can’t afford to be a foster parent.
Foster parents are given some money to assist with the extra expenses of caring for foster children. Granted, it may not cover all the expenses, but at least it will cover most of them. Most medical, dental, and mental health expenses for foster children are covered. The only financial requirement you have is that you have enough existing income (besides foster care reimbursements) to support yourself and your family.
It’s true that foster parenting can a challenge, but it’s also important to look beyond the myths and challenges to see what the future of these children could look like.