Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Top 8 Reasons Not to Become a Foster Parent

Every foster parent knows that when someone new finds out about their foster parent status, the response is always the same. "I could never do that."

And why would they want to? Being a foster parent is hard. Really hard. They don't call it "foster care hell" for no reason. "I could never do that" is a perfectly legitimate response.

But maybe you've thought you could. Maybe you've considered taking the leap and getting your foster license.

If so, I'm here to tell you: DON'T DO IT. In fact, here's a list of eight reasons not to foster, in no particular order:

1) Though you designate on your paperwork which kinds of placements you're open to, you're constantly called about placements that aren't even close to what you've designated. You're open to girls ages 0-4? Great, here's a placement for a 13-year-old boy. Can you take him?

2) You drag your foster kid out of bed early on a Monday morning, and dress him and feed him and pack him a lunch so he'll be ready to go to a visit with his bio parents by 7:30am. At 7:15am, bio parents cancel the visit. Again.

3) Despite their best efforts and intentions, case workers are overloaded and provide little to no communication about your foster child's case or the timeline for their stay with you. Are the parents making progress? Is there hope for reunification? Was bio mom sent to jail? Is the state planning to move the child to a different state to live with the bio dad's sister? Who knows?

4) You bathe and feed and kiss and hug and love and love and love a child for days, weeks, months...sometimes years. And then, the child leaves. Sometimes with little notice. Sometimes for reasons you don't agree with. And you have no say in it.

5) You squeeze your heart out to maintain a good relationship with the foster child's bio parents, for the child's sake if nothing else, only to have them accuse you of abuse or neglect or theft behind your back. Your foster baby has chronic diaper rash? Must be because you don't take good care of him.

6) Appointments and scheduling. Doctor's appointments, dental appointments, physical and/or occupational therapy appointments, counseling appointments, CASA appointments, WIC appointments. Not to mention weekly visits with bio parents.

7) Behaviors. Every foster kid's got some. They're frightened, confused. They've had little to no positive influences in their life. They're usually behind developmentally. They have to navigate a new world and new relationships. So they act out. Add "attend support group so you don't lose your mind" to the list of things you have to schedule.

And last but not least,
8) Inner turmoil. Am I doing the right thing? Is this fair to the children already in my home? At the end of the day, do all my efforts make any difference whatsoever? What if my foster kid goes back to his bios and something bad happens to him? What if he stays here and something bad happens to him? How many times can our family go through the ups and downs of this process?

No one in their right mind would ever sign up to be a foster parent with a list like that to consider. Those are eight great reasons to NEVER GET INVOLVED, and no one will blame you - least of all me - if you decide not to foster. In fact, that's what this list is for. To talk you out of it.

But...there's one more thing you need to know. One more important thing to consider before you make your final decision.

Those kids - those vulnerable, at-risk, abused, neglected, traumatized, helpless, innocent, wonderful kids - are going to go through foster care hell with or without you. They're going to be removed by CPS, sent to live with a stranger, jerked around between the state's best intentions and their parents' efforts or lack thereof to get them back, with or without you. With or without me.

And we can either stay away and spare ourselves from all that suffering that doesn't really change anything anyway, or reach a comforting hand into hell and hold on to a child for dear life.

The child's already there, arms outstretched. Take his hand or not.

But don't take it if it's easy for you to let go.