Surprising Foster Care Myths Debunked
Foster Care Myths[/caption]Foster care organizations like ours have heard it all about foster parents – the good, the bad and the ugly. But even we’re surprised at some of what’s being said these days. Have you ever heard these common (and sometimes crazy) foster care myths?
Despite the many foster care myths that would have you believe that foster parents are only in it for themselves, we know that good foster parents make the well-being of their foster child their number one priority. When they feel that their state’s child protection team isn’t doing what’s in the child’s best interest, they take action. This means many, many phone calls (that more often than not go to voicemail) to caseworkers and supervisors, frequent emails and even court appearances (with no guarantee that their opinions/observations will be heard).
Foster parents repeatedly tell us that dealing with their state’s child protection agency is the most challenging aspect of caring for foster children. More than a foster child acting out, more than all the doctor appointments and bio family visits that come with the territory, it’s dealing with the “system” that proves to be the hardest thing for foster parents to cope with, so this may be the craziest of all foster care myths we’ve heard about foster parents.
Ideally, foster parents and agencies working as a team is the best thing for children in care. In fact, our NJ foster care organization employs family advocates whose sole job is to help local foster parents understand child protection / child welfare agencies policies and use that knowledge to secure all the services and supports their foster children need. Another one of the foster care myths that surprises us is…
While many foster parents grow attached to their foster children (debunking the next of our foster care myths below), they ultimately know that, whenever possible, reunification of the child and the birth parents is the ultimate goal.
While some foster parents go the foster to adopt route, many more see their role as a caring coach for the entire biological family. In fact, many foster parents see it as their calling to serve as a good example to birth parents trying to get back their kids, and they support those efforts in many different ways.
From modeling effective parenting techniques during visits, to encouraging their foster children to draw pictures or write letters to their bio parents, to even inviting them (when allowed by the courts) to holiday celebrations, foster parents encourage a positive relationship between their foster children and their bio parents whenever it is safe to do so. They do this while knowing that, if they’re successful in their efforts, the child they’ve grown to care for will be leaving them.
To prepare, many take a free foster parent training course on dealing with grief when a foster child goes back home. These courses on grief are among our most popular, which should put the next of our foster care myths to rest.
Imagine having a child in your home for weeks, months, years. Imagine she comes to you fearful, angry, and broken. You make it your mission to heal her, every day. Some days it seems like a lost cause, but you never give up, no matter how much resistance you receive. And you receive a lot!
You host the first birthday party she ever had, and you wait excitedly for her reaction. She cries because she wishes her “real mom” was there. You help her with the homework she never thought she could do, and you endure her rage when you insist she do it, even though she never had to before. You know she’s afraid, and you hope that her fear doesn’t destroy her – or you and your family.
Finally, one day, you get a smile. Then maybe a hug and a kiss. Your foster child is learning to trust you, is growing and thriving, is beginning to live without fear. But it’s only the beginning, and you’re determined to help her, as best you can, continue on a path of determination and hope, whether she continues to live with you, moves to another foster or adoptive family, to a relative’s home, or eventually, back home with her biological mother.
You feel angry when well-meaning people say your foster child should be “grateful” to be with you. You feel you’re the one who should be grateful for the chance to help make her life a bit better for however long she stays. And when she leaves, you know you’ll never forget the time she was a part of your family.
Does this sound like someone who doesn’t care to you? No, foster children aren’t “really” their children, but doesn’t that make what foster parents do all the more important and inspiring? Which leads us to the last (and most common) of all foster care myths…
Let’s look at Foster Care Board Rates in NJ. A 2010 study of the by the National Foster Parent Association, the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and Children’s Rights showed that New Jersey reimburses foster parents 96 percent of what the actual cost is to provide care. Where does the other 4% come from? Usually from the foster parent’s pocketbook.
If you break down the amount received by NJ foster parents, a foster parent caring for an infant is reimbursed 99¢ per hour. A foster parent caring for a 6 year-old is reimbursed $1.10 per hour. A foster parent caring for an 11 year-old is reimbursed $1.13 per hour and a foster parent caring for a teen is reimbursed $1.17 per hour.
If this most common of foster care myths were true and foster parents only were interested in money, they could find a much easier job that pays much better than fostering! But they wouldn’t, because you can’t put a price on making a positive difference in the life of a child.
What are some of the foster care myths you’ve heard, and how do you respond to them? Comment below and let us know!