Pros and Cons of Being a Foster Family
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.