Posted: May 19, 2014 7:00 AM
Considering foster parenting is a monumental decision, especially when foster kids often face traumatic pasts, anger and resentment. But, not everyone is cut out for the challenge. From questions to ask yourself to understanding the responsibility, find out how to decide: Should I become a foster parent?
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Reasons to foster a child

Every child from every walk of life deserves a stable, loving home, and sometimes that means in the arms of a foster parent. Opening your home to a foster child can often times be challenging as well as the most rewarding way to give back to kids in need. But, making the decision to walk the path of a foster parent and making a difference in the life of a child may not be right for everyone.

The reality of foster parenting

Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about foster parenting and adoption. But, the first step in making the decision of whether or not to become a foster parent is to understand what foster care is really about:

  • Foster parenting is a full-time job, but you don't have to be a stay-at-home foster parent. However, unlike most expenses covered by or supplemented by the state, childcare costs may be solely covered by the foster family depending on the state.
  • Foster parenting is a journey that isn't always hearts and butterflies. Not all foster children come from traumatic situations, but every child needs to become adjusted to being in a new family, which can include lying, temper tantrums, bed wetting and other emotion-based behaviors that can pass over time.
  • You can request the age and gender of a foster child, but you cannot choose which child you foster. Each child has a different background and different needs, but they all deserve a safe, secure foster home.
Each child has a different background and different needs, but they all deserve a safe, secure foster home.
  • You may not be able to adopt your foster child. reports that more than half of all foster children return to their birth families, although 54 percent of the 51,000 children in foster care in 2013 were adopted by their foster parents.
  • Most foster kids have regular, court-ordered visits with their birth parents. This requires you to coordinate with the child's caseworker and often times give your foster child extra emotional support through these tough visits.

Questions to ask before fostering

Now that you've sifted out the myths from the facts about foster care, you still need to ask yourself a few tough questions before taking the plunge:

  1. Am I ready to support the special needs of a foster child? While not all children in foster care have special needs or require special education, potential foster parents must be able to care for a range of circumstances foster kids may have, from age factors to medical conditions to physical, mental or emotional handicaps. "The hundreds of thousands of children who are in the foster care system through no fault of their own need families who step forward to provide a safe home; but they also need foster parents who can deeply understand the trauma they have experienced, their fears and hopes," explains Rita Soronen, CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption . "A great foster parent is compassionate, strong, deeply understanding, loving and has a love for children."

  2. Does my schedule allow me to coordinate with caseworkers for visits between my foster child and his or her birth parents? Many kids in foster care have been removed from abusive or neglectful situations but still have contact with their birth family. It is common for foster children to have court-ordered visits with their birth parents, both supervised and unsupervised.

  3. Can I cover the costs of foster parenting? While you receive a check each month to cover the cost of feeding and clothing your foster child and the government covers medical and dental health care, any expense above and beyond this compensation comes out of your own pocket. You may want to treat your foster kid to nicer clothes or go on an outing to an amusement park, but these extra costs are not reimbursed.

  4. Can I love a foster child fully and then let him or her go? Foster parenting involves forming a strong bond with your foster child, which in most cases results in the foster kid returning to his or her birth parents. Although you will likely have to give up your foster child eventually, you cannot withhold love that these children so desperately need.

  5. Can your family adjust to the dynamics of a foster child entering and leaving your home? Any time you open your home to a foster child, your relationships — including your marriage and your other children — will be affected. Sometimes it will be the adjustment of sharing time and attention with another child in the house and sometimes it will be the void that needs to be filled when a foster child leaves. But, both tough and rewarding at the same time, your lives will be changed.

Still unsure if you should become a foster parent? The first step is to contact a local adoption agency and they can answer your questions about foster care and guide you through the process if you should decide that foster parenting is right for you. Regardless of the questions you may have about fostering, there's one answer that's crystal clear: Every foster child deserves a chance to thrive in a loving, safe environment.

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