Why does foster care get a bad name?
Several reasons. First, the perception of foster care, and specifically, foster parenting, is broken, tainted, and any other negative connotation you can attach to it. Name a movie other than The Blind Side that gives you warm fuzzies about the foster care system (and that wasn’t your traditional foster situation). Having trouble? You shouldn’t be surprised. Whether it is television, movies, or the media in general, foster care is met with cynicism, rampant rumors and stories of corruption, and a general picture of families taking on extra kids to make money.
Is that true? In some cases, yes. Not everyone who fosters truly has the best intentions of the children in mind. But for every family who behaves that way, there are hundreds of families who do have the children’s best interests in mind, who simply want to provide a safe harbor, whether for a month or indefinitely, for a child. The real truth is that the minority who behave in inappropriate way outnumbers the majority who work hard to love the children who need it desperately.
Second, there is a general lack of information about what it takes to be a foster parent. I admit that until we began this journey, I fell into this camp. Did you know in our state (Missouri) it takes 27-30 hours of training (depending on which agency you are trained through), a very intimate personal and home assessment, and 30 hours of continued training every 2 years to keep a foster care license? Is it worth the 3 hour class for 10 weeks to prepare for being a foster parent? Most definitely. The knowledge we walked out with made us better parents in general, not just specifically for the situations we would encounter.
Third, there are the horror stories about the children. Let me be very clear: If you were to take the most well-adjusted child out of any home, inform them they couldn’t see their parents, and that they would be moved to another “home”, and you really expect them to calmly accept that result without acting out, please rethink your logic. Now imagine that same child being moved to a couple of different homes, whether because of circumstances of the home, or simply the way that life happens, and think about the walls that might go up.
When you understand the trauma that has occurred, both in the home, and because of the life changes, it seems plausible to me that not everything is going to be wonderful.
Boundaries will be broken, hearts will be hurt, and adjustments will be made.
But this is where the most important part of the equation is: If in that moment, we choose to love children where they are, we give them hope. Hope that they are worth something (which they are). Truth that they are loved (which they are). We give them the freedom to relax, even if it is just for a moment before they revert back to challenging everything. And that one sliver of a moment is what makes it all worth it.
What are other stigmas about foster care?
How can we dispel them?
I hope that these posts give some insight not only to why we foster, but why the truth about fostering is so important to know. If you haven’t read the previous post, you can find it here. My goal is to simply bring a little awareness to a need that is present in every community we live in.