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Pros And Cons Of Being A Foster Family

Updated on April 16, 2017

I was a foster parent for five years and have often said I could write a book about it. This is a bit long but I've broken it down into sections so hopefully it's digestible.

There are good and bad foster families but unfortunately, you only hear about the bad ones. I was a foster parent for five years. It had it’s good points but there are things you need to know if you are considering taking in foster children.

Can you make money keeping foster kids?


You can but if you do it the right way you don’t make very much if anything at all. Those that are in it for the money keep the kids in rags, hardly buy them anything and treat them like second-class citizens.

If you buy them new clothes once in a while and new toys for gifts you won’t make as much but you’ll feel better as a person, at least I do.

It’s sad but some foster homes don’t even celebrate the kid’s birthdays or buy them gifts.

Social workers were always surprised at how much stuff my kids had accumulated while living in my home. Many leave a foster home with a few belongings in a trash bag. A trash bag? Come on people you can at least pick up a backpack or suitcase at a thrift store for these children to carry their things in.


Pros


Helping children that need a home.

We have a lot of selfish people in this world who are irresponsible with birth control. Many of them are drug addicts spending their last dime on their drug of choice and condoms are way down on their list of priorities. Plus depending on what state they live in they may think of a child as a government check to help buy even more drugs.

Every night when you watch the news and see people arrested for a crime with children, nine times out of ten they are taken into DHS custody. When you hear those words that means kids were taken to a shelter or emergency foster home.

Then from there they are placed into a full time foster home if suitable family cannot be found. They try to place these kids with family when possible but unfortunately dysfunction often runs in families.


Adoption


If you can’t have children of your own this is a way to expand your family.

Do not go into foster care as though you are shopping for a child or children.

It doesn’t work that way but if you have kids that are in your care long term and they go up for adoption you are first pick.

We adopted my daughter this way. We had no intention of adopting a child; I already had two sons. I just wanted to help less fortunate kids that needed a safe home but we had my daughter from the time she was six months old until they finally closed her case when she was five and a half years old. We were the only family she ever knew, we were attached to each other. Her birth mother had gotten to know me over the years and said she would only sign her rights away if I adopted her, so I did.


No matter how messed up birth parents are try to keep on good terms with them if possible. You don’t always meet them but social workers are overworked and will sometimes ask you to transport and supervise family visits. Take notes and pay attention for many reasons.

I have seen many children adopted by their foster families. After you’ve had these kids for years you get attached. Unfortunately, the court system is very flawed and takes way too long to resolve a child’s case. I've seen some give the kids back after two or three years and the foster parents were devastated. In the life of a child two or three years is a lifetime.

Reunification is their goal. Unless the parents are really messed up and many of them are, they try to place children back with their birth parents if at all possible. Unfortunately, many of these parents have bad habits that are hard to break: prostitution, drugs, alcohol, crime or pedophilia.

Parents in long-term prison sentences will sometimes sign their rights away but many see their kids as possessions and even though they can’t raise them and will probably never see a free life they won’t relinquish their parental rights.


Kids are fun


Children are funny little people and can make you laugh or at least smile at their antics and things they will say. I still have fond memories of some of my foster kids that have been in my home over the years.


Cons


Social workers will lie to you.

Some simply leave out information but they will do whatever it takes to find homes for the hundreds of kids needing placement. There are a lot of messed up kids due to what they’ve been exposed to and it’s important you know what you are dealing with but you don’t always get all of the facts.


Drug babies


I’ve had infants that had the shakes from withdrawals. I’ve had them with all sorts of medical problems due to the mother doing drugs while pregnant.

You don't always get the proper training in how to deal with these babies. I learned from other foster moms.

You have to swaddle these babies and learn ways to sooth their moods. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve ever witnessed it first hand.

I can't tell you how many miles I've rocked in a rocking chair or how many songs I've sang all night long.


Behavior issues


Normal children grow up watching Sesame Street or other kid shows teaching them how to read, have manners and other life skills.

Children in DHS custody have watched pornography, mom have sex with her customers, some have been given to men for sex themselves, some have been taught to shoplift, some pretend to do drugs with toys and some have terrible nightmares during the night keeping everyone awake.

I’ve had children I had to pat down after leaving stores to make sure they didn’t steal anything. I’ve had children that had to be separated during naptime because they would have sex or try to. We’re not talking about teenagers here, were talking about a four year old boy and his three-year-old sister. I’ve had children I couldn’t take in public because their foul language would curl the hair on a sailor. I’ve had children with rectal prolapse from being raped by mom’s customers.

Social workers don’t always tell you all of these details. They’ll tell you they aren’t allowed to discuss a child’s case because it’s confidential but that is hogwash. They don’t tell you because if you knew half the information you wouldn’t want the child in your home or around your own children.


Doctor’s visits


These kids need a full examination to determine any health issues or as in the case of the mentally disabled boy I had with rectal prolapse you need to know what has been done to these kids so you can get them the proper care. He has to wear diapers the rest of his life. Diapers are an extra cost and if you aren’t expecting to have to buy them for a six-year-old child you need to know these things. The cost of diapers comes out of your pocket.

Some of these kids have major health issues and/or mental problems and require many trips to physicians. You will spend a lot of time in waiting rooms with all the little ducklings in your care. Hopefully you won’t have one that cusses worse than a rap star.


Stares and comments


I’ve had children of every color of the rainbow in my home and people have given me some looks. One time I had a half black little girl, an American Indian girl, a white blonde haired baby boy and a white baby girl. An old woman almost gave herself whiplash staring at my kids and then at me.

My best friend who was also a foster parent and a real character looked the woman in the eye and said, “She sleeps around.”

We still laugh about that. You have to have a sense of humor or you’ll go nuts.

You'll get stupid questions from people asking if a black baby and a white baby are twins. I said yes.


Leaving your home


Many foster families close their home after a child or children have left their home. You get attached to these kids and some leave a deeper mark than others. I still wonder and worry about some that left my home. They are precious little people and hard to forget.

You aren’t allowed to have any further contact or knowledge about these kids next placement or how they are doing. Social workers will lie and tell you they are doing great. I know they are lying because I’ve found out different before and gotten one child back. Her worker didn’t know she was in a bad situation she was just trying to make me feel okay about it.

Try not to think too much about it because it can drive you crazy. I had a drug baby that was given back to his addicted parents because the judge traded him for the custody rights of his two older sisters. (I didn’t have the girls.) Mom and dad were still using drugs, nothing changed it was just a plea bargain. Like I said, the courts are horribly flawed.

I still get teary eyed about that little red headed baby.


Assistance you may not be aware of


There are all kinds of extra help social workers don’t always tell you about. In all fairness most of them just don’t know about them.

You have to understand that the average amount of time a person is a DHS social worker is five years. That is as long as any of them can stand it and many of them quit long before that. They come fresh out of college and are thrown to the wolves with not much more knowledge than a beginning foster parent. In fact long-term foster parents know more about the DHS system than most new workers. I’ve finished more than one case while being a foster parent but I won’t go into that.


WIC


Depending on where you live, each state has their own programs; you may be able to get free baby formula and a few grocery items for your younger foster children.

You need to sign up for them as soon as possible. It will ask for income, you do not have to report your own income. These kids are not in your custody; they are wards of the state and as such have no income. Not everyone realizes this.

This program goes with the child so if you get a baby and another foster parent has already signed them up for WIC you’ll need to transfer the paperwork. I had an emergency foster mom steal one of my baby’s milk because she was saving it for her next baby so I had to buy milk for three months before she could get her next set of vouchers. You meet all kinds.


Free breakfast and lunch program


Most public schools have a free or reduced cost lunch for low-income kids. Again, these kids are considered wards of the state and qualify for free lunches.

Some cities even have a summer program where you can take your kids for breakfast or lunch in the summer. I never did this but have known some foster parents that did.

You get very little payment for these children and much of their needs comes out of your own pocket so cutting cost where you can will help.


Clothing


There are organizations that collect clothes for these kids. Check with other foster parents to find out these resources.

Some will let you get an outfit or two every season for free. Most are gently used clothes but some are new donated from local merchants.

These kids usually only come with the clothes on their backs. If you are an emergency home you’ll get kids in the middle of the night sometimes only in their underwear. Police pick these kids up and don’t worry about getting a wardrobe they just wrap them in a blanket and take them to the station.


Meet other foster parents


Most of what I learned I learned from other foster parents. They are a wealth of information as well as great babysitters.

You can barter or pay to have other families watch your kids while you take a weekend off once in a while. It’s well worth it.

Teaming up with other foster families helps with care as well as support. I’ve gone on picnics and other outings with other parents who are in the same boat and understand what we are going through. They’ve had the same stares and weird comments from strangers so standing together helps.

They'll understand your embarrassment at having to yell to little Marijuana and Cocaine that it's time to go home.

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    • profile image

      Kristie 3 days ago

      Thank you for the info and laugh. I'm contemplating. My biggest concern is my own children and making sure they're not exposed to things. As much as I want to help, I don't know if I'm prepared to take all that in.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

      Thanks for telling the good, bad, and ugly. Wow!

    • profile image

      Francis 5 weeks ago

      Wow! Thank you very much sharing experiences. I would love to become a foster parent. Although I have a son of my own, I always thought of caring for a child that needs help. My concern is always becoming too attach. How can a foster parent become a long term fosterparent? Do you get to pick the age of a child? (Reason being because my son is only 5yrs old) how do you deal with public tantrums? Is it better to be a full time available mom or can I still keep my full time job?

      Thank you again. You're truly an inspiration and Im pretty sure, you have been such a blessing to all your foster kids.

    • profile image

      Corinn 16 months ago

      Being a foster parent is truly difficult. I know this because we adopted our daughter through foster care. She was already seven when she reached us, but had been in the system for a year, and was separated from several siblings. As much energy as dealing with all of her emotions and aggressive behaviors, I always knew she had had it much worse. I couldn't imagine going through anything that she had already been through at her age. Now that she has had love and stability for a few years, she has made so much progress. She is practically a different child, for the better.

    • profile image

      kimberly 23 months ago

      Thank you so much for the information you shared. I'm considering to become a foster parent within the next year,I need all the information necessary to become an strong,dedicated,and committed,provider. I've been working with children for over 16yrs.and I know they go through so much, I want & have to make a difference! Thank you sooooo-much

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      It is important to have enough funding to care for these children properly. There isn't enough money or staff to see that foster kids are given the help they need.

    • profile image

      djones 2 years ago

      I too,have read & heard TOO MANY CASES OF ABUSE & NEGLECT OF CHILDREN. It must stop!! Thank You wholeheartedly, for the truth& honesty. Too many times,Social Workers,being overworked& underpaid,have a quote-& a child to place..so,iti seems they purposefully or not omit the truth. If you're in it for the right reasons,it shouldn't affect your decision. The one thing though i do have a problem with is the financial compensation. My reasons are clearly not to make ANY money as a caregiver..but I

      do believe its important to have sufficient funds to feed/clothe/medically care for a child,especially when the home they've just been taken from often is receiving FULL BENEFITS? ? Something is wrong with our system

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      I was a foster parent as well, and wholeheartedly agree with the pros and cons you have outlined. I think another one is how much time it takes - taking them to doctor's visits, parents' visits, counselors visits, etc. There is hardly any time in the day for "normal" stuff.

    • profile image

      greeneyedblondie 3 years ago

      Actually there are cases of twins being born different skin colors. It's happened before so it can be a ligament question.

    • Pamela N Red profile image
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      Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Dave, a good online support group I found that you might find helpful is this one:

      http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Foster-Care/support...

    • profile image

      Dave Gray 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I'm thinking of becoming a foster parent . I know that the system lies through their teeth . They lie to the kids in the care as well . A good friend of mine lost her children about ten years ago because her husband had raped the daughter , it was the second time the girl had been raped well in the care of the parents . I'm searching the web trying to find out every thing I can about being a foster parent ,so I can make my decietion . If you know any good sites I can read up before I meet with the worker for the first step to become a foster parent , I would be grateful my appointment is in a couple of weeks

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for reading, Marion. It was an experience I will never forget.

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 4 years ago from The Study

      wow...it's all still sinking in. Love your humor, your gumption, and your sharing the heart of these kids with us. Thanks for writing.

    • Mindy Bush profile image

      Mindy Bush 4 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee

      Ah, this was such a wonderful read. Thank you so much for the candor, the humor and even the harsh reality. :)

    • JessicaSmetz profile image

      Just Ask Jess 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Very inspiring! It is crazy some of the things children have gone through. It takes good people to help them.

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Cherrie, it's a good thing to do. It's not all bad but people need to realize the bad side of it so they go in with eyes wide open.

    • Cherrietgee profile image

      Cherrietgee 5 years ago from Illinois

      This was very informative. I've been contemplating whether or not to become a foster parent, and I appreciate the way you told the truth.

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Dina. It isn't an easy job but they need us.

    • Dina Blaszczak profile image

      Dina Blaszczak 5 years ago from Poland

      You are definitely a brave woman, Pamela for doing such hard job. I never imagined things you wrote about, always thought being a foster parent is much easier. It's very sad that there are so many unlucky children who have such irresponsible parents. Hope your hub will be found by the foster parents who need the information you shared. Voted up and useful.

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      AEvans, when the doctor told me why he couldn't control his bowels I wanted to hurt someone and I'm not a violent person.

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 5 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      You have such a beautiful heart. Years ago we tried becoming foster parents, but in the first three classes conducted, we chose to not proceed. Out of 16 couples, 7 kept discussing money from the state. What about the children? We had already adopted our son so we were blessed with him.

      As for the little boy with rectal prolapse, that was so sad. It never should hurt to be a child. Shame on the judge for giving a newborn back to addicts. We certainly was not for the well-being of the baby.

      Thumbs up and shared!

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Jenubouka, I'm sorry you had to grow up in the system. It's a harsh world for any child. I was in foster care for a short time when I was a kid so when I grew up I wanted to help these children. I think having a bit of empathy for their situation helps us be better parents to them.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      I commend you whole heartily Pamela for taking on one of the hardest and heartbreaking "jobs" in the world. You are so right about the courts, social workers, the good foster parents, and the greedy ones. There are so many foster children that get left behind or lost in the system still today.

      I was a foster child since the age of 3, and became a ward of the state by age 8. It was no picnic, no not even close. As each child in foster care had a retched story of their childhood only a handful will be able to over come their obstacles and learn to be a "functioning" adult. As a foster child I can only speak for myself and can say that 2 out of the 30 foster homes were like you. We never forget incredible people as yourself, we do not show how much we are grateful, for we do not understand unconditional love. I can not even think of how difficult it is for a "good" foster parent to bring troubled children in their home, then have them taken back to the demise that stemmed their condition. You are an angel for having the courage and strength to endure this, wonderful and very insightful read.

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Very good article, I think it is good that people are willing to raise kids that are not their own. The are a lot of cons to being a foster parent such as kids with problems, but I think the pros are much greater.

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Made, it's not for everyone and not an easy job. Thanks for reading.

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 5 years ago from Finland

      You have done a great job helping these children. And you have a big heart, Pamela. I wish I would be that brave some day and take care of foster children. It must be very emotional. I don't know if I could deal with all the feelings that comes along with being a foster parent. Voted up and shared!

    • Pamela N Red profile image
      Author

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Ananceleste, I tried to soften the blow of how it is for these children but it's a terrible world they live in.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Good work! Well done with your parenting activities!

    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 5 years ago from California

      I give you a standing ovation my friend! I am very relieved to hear from a foster parent that embraces the resposability of this little ones. Not so long ago I did a piece that involved child abuse cases, during Child Protective Services and foster care. What I found out made me cry. I did not wanted to believe it. But the evidence was overwhelming at best.

      To be honest, after trying to get an impression of good foster care experience, this is the first one I have encountered! It gives me hope.Thanks for sharing. I would love to have your input on the matter please. I need an opinion from the other side of the coin from foster care.

      http://ananceleste.hubpages.com/hub/In-the-Best-In...