Can I Foster A Child? Things Every Foster Parent Should Know


There are so many wonderful reasons to do foster care. To help children in need is probably the greatest of these. Ever since our daughter moved in with us (through the foster care system), everyone has given me their opinions and experiences with the foster care system. I have heard everything from, we tried it and it was not right for our family, to I am going to be a foster parent once my children are grown. Regardless, I have found that many people have misconceptions of the foster care system.

To become a foster parent, one needs to ask themselves some basic questions about their family and their expectations. Make sure that what you envision is realistic. At our first foster parent class there were around 24 people in the room, at the end of the four week class there was 12 of us. Most left after the first day, because the teachers were brutally honest what we were getting ourselves into. I think we needed to hear it. We needed to be prepared for anything. So here I have laid out some things you should expect and be prepared for in order to become a successful foster parent.

Foster Agency Team

Are You Okay With Working With A Team?

The Parents: One of the big misconceptions people have about foster parenting is that you become that child's parent. In all honesty, you won't have the same influence or rights as the child's parent. If you're of a certain religious background, you may even think you will be able to spiritually save them. Unfortunately, if the biological parent does not want their child to go to church, then you need to respect that.

Often these children have years of their own beliefs stored up and won't immediately warm up to yours, just because you open the doors to them. If they do warm up to your religious beliefs it may be to please you, not some true conversion. I point this out, because to become a foster parent you need to realize that their biological parent, unless the rights are terminated, have authority over decisions you make. If they feel it is not in the best interest of the child, no matter how much you may disagree, you have to respect the child's biological parent's decision. You have become part of the same team as her, no matter how resistant she is to you.

Foster Care Agency: Not only will the biological parent be there, but you will be monitored at least once a month if not more by various social workers. They will give you advice, but you also need to make sure that you are open and honest with them. Many of these children not only have social workers, but they may also have psychologists, as well as a wide variety of therapist for areas they may be developmentally behind in. Then let's not forget the biological grandparents, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, etc. This is on top of coaches, doctors, teachers, peers, etc. And though you are with the child most, you are not the one calling the shots.

Also, you will need to bring these children to visit their parents, bring them to doctor visits, where parents might be there as well, along with a myriad of other times when you will cross paths with their biological parents. In some rare circumstances, they will keep foster parent and parent separate. They are just as scared to meet you as you are to meet them. Make sure they see that you are a warm caring person.

Unlike other children though, these teams will invade your privacy. You will be asked delving questions by the social worker that talks about stresses in your marriage, your past relationships, what you keep in your bathroom cupboard. They will know everything about you through home studies and periodic visits to the home, plus remember the children may also share information about you. One of the main areas that they will look into is how you deal with stress.


How Do You Cope With Stress and Anxiety

It's important for you to be honest with yourself in this area, but also the social workers. It may help them place more wisely with you. As I previously stated, foster parents are not the parents. They are under scrutiny and are held to higher expectations than a birth parent will be. If you have a hot temper and scream a lot, this may not be a concern for DHS as far as your biological children go, but this would not be tolerated for a child in the foster home.

For one, these children are going to test every boundary. They are looking for someone to love them, and may react in unlovable ways to see if they can trust the love you are trying to give out. They also have seen much more than many of us have, and may even know how to manipulate in ways that we are unprepared for. You need to be prepared for creative discipline without spanking.

Plus these children are going through a hard time, they need someone loving and patient to guide them. They need someone they can talk to and you as a foster parent needs to be able to handle what they tell you. Many times the reasons they are brought into foster care are ugly. Some will need help dealing with drug issues, abuse, neglect, loss, death. You also need to ask yourself whether you are prepared for certain cases. This means that you need to be very honest with yourself. Do not take a child into your home, if you are feeling like you cannot deal with their circumstance. The workers hear no a lot. Don't be afraid to turn away a child, because you may be blessing them with a better equipped home.

For instance, maybe you were drawn to foster care because you were abused as a child and want to help others who are going through similar situations. That's great! But you may want to ask yourself and be honest, are you completely healed from that abuse. If the answer is no, you may react in a way that may negatively impact the child's own healing process. The last thing a child needs to see is someone breaking down to them telling their story. They need to feel that it's okay to share this story, and though they can share their story and be saddened by it, they have a stable adult that can handle it.

How Do Others Feel about You Becoming a Fostering Family?

You are not the only one who needs to be able to handle these situations well. Even those in your immediate family or friends who are not going to hear the child's stories, and they SHOULDN'T, will have their opinions. You need to make sure that those around you are going to be supportive of that child. If you are surrounded by naysayers, do you think that's healthy to bring a child into that.

Although there is a point where you have to decide that it doesn't matter what others think, the reaction and opinions of those around you will impact the child you bring in. Many of these children have undergone tremendous loss and rejection. If those around you are unsupportive or severely judgmental, or even racist, this only adds another rejection or loss that they will experience. You will need to decide whether the relationship or doing foster care is more important.

If you have a wonderful support group who will love you as well as any child in your home regardless of the reason for this, this will help you and the children in so many ways. I am fortunate enough to have this, and it has not only been a blessing for my adoptive daughter, but also for my husband and I as we hit new challenges.


How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid?

There is a false impression surrounding foster care that you can make money doing this. Now, yes, foster parents do get paid, but a very small amount in comparison to what a child actually needs. Children are expensive. For one, if it's an infant, think of the cost of diapers and formula, even as a child gets older they need not only necessities, but also experiences like a normal child that will cost money.

I believe the average child gets less than 15 dollars a day that will go to the foster parent. There is in most states a clothing allowance, but realistically if you receive 100 dollars twice a year as we did, how much clothes does that really buy? By the time you buy a winter coat, snowpants, boots, and shoes, you have already spent that plus some. Keep in mind also that what you buy is theirs. When and if they leave, you'll be packing those clothes, toys, books. You are not able to use these same items as a hand-me-down for the next child as you might your own children.

Also, children grow. My first year with my daughter, she started out as a size 4 in three months she was a size 5, three months later a size 6, and yes, you have to buy these clothes for them. Plus some of the children have moved a lot, and don't come to you with many clothes, or even toys that most kids take for granted. There were two kids who came into our home, and they had two outfits, which the state provided, and one toy each. This is VERY typical. In the more severe case of a child being taken out of a Meth home, they lose all their belongings due to them being considered a health hazard. Although most states will give extra money in these circumstances it won't cover everything. Plus you have to be able to gently handle the added loss the child will feel, not only losing their parents, their home, but all their things. Not being able to bring anything of theirs with them.

Other expenses that may be overlooked that are necessities for foster care is bed, dresser, desk, toy bin, games, toys, school supplies, coats, clothes, movie tickets, plane tickets (if you go on a trip), restaurant meals, etc.

Why Do You Want to Be a Foster Parent

You need to make sure that your expectations are realistic. For instance if you are wanting to do it so you have extra money, you certainly won't! If you want to build your family this way, although this works, it is very risky. More than fifty percent of the children that come into foster care will go back home to their biological parents. That is the goal of every child in the foster care system. They don't want to give you the child, they want to rehabilitate their biological parent. Even in cases that the social worker thinks the child will be placed up for adoption, even then there is no guarantees. Are you okay with handling your own loss of a child?

If your intent is to change someone's life, although that is very noble of you, you need to be realistic. You can hope, you can try, but the only person who can change someone's life is the person themselves. You can give them the tools and know how to do it, but chances are you won't see the fruits of your labor. Maybe something you said will stick with them, but once they go back home, it's hard to know what sticks with them, and what doesn't.

So if you are considering becoming foster parents, be real with yourself. Is this right for you? Can you handle the stress, can you afford it, are you really in it for the right reasons. Then if so, go for it. It's rewarding, although in ways you might not expect.

© 2010 Angela Michelle

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Comments 43 comments

greeneyedblondie profile image

greeneyedblondie 15 months ago

Great post. It was interesting reading it as someone who would like to get into foster care children someday.

JLClose profile image

JLClose 17 months ago from OreGONE

Thank you. This is all great, real information. Much of it I have heard before, but it's good to go into fostering being fully equipped and knowledgeable. I have always wanted to foster because I have a huge heart for children and want to help those who are in need of love and care. I want to wait until my own kids are a little older, but I love to read about other's experiences and I welcome all and any advice.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 2 years ago from United States Author

Yes, we have had four children through the foster care system, and all went back to the parents. It was the best.

sara 2 years ago

I know 2 kids who were in the fostor care system for reasons but after two yrs the parents got them back

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 3 years ago from United States Author

I think that she should have the state rereview her case. I've not had anything like that happen, but if they see a pattern with the kids, and the younger one wants to call her mommy, then I think they may be able to see that they are fit for fostering. My experiences have been very good, although I say no to a lot of cases, because I don't think I'm emotionally, physically, ready to take it on. She needs to know when to say no, when they call her.

EM 3 years ago

I need some advice from individual's who have been in this situation.

My sister cannot have children, so she and her husband decided to try fostering. It was bad. Their first foster children were a brother and sister (6 and 8) who had been badly abused. My sister and BIL had not been given any training. The children's counselor recommended to the state that they be separated (being together made their issues worse), but the state refused. The counselor also recommended that the young boy be put into a daily counseling program with an after-school component, and that my sister and her husband should be given special training, because he was so troubled and behaviorally out of control. The state refused. A few weeks later, the boy, now 7, attacked my sister. He didn't really do any damage, but they decided to call the caseworker again and insist that more intensive counseling be pursued. The children had been with them for 4 months and they had discussed adopting the children if the boy's behavior could be stabilized. Within 48 hours the children were removed - taken from school by a caseworker - and a note was put in my sister and her husband's file stating that they were unfit to be foster parents. My understanding is that this same situation happened with the next foster family, but much more quickly (6 weeks). Eventually, the children were sent back to a foster home with 13 children.

My sister was devastated and has been dealing with recurring bouts of depression since this happened five years ago. She will not see a counselor. I try to help her as much as possible and she has seemed better the last 6 months, until the holiday season started.

Yesterday, the young girl - now 13 - sent my sister a Facebook invite with a note that she wants to call and talk to her "mommy". My sister spent half the day crying and doesn't know what to do. I don't know how to help her.

Help please!

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

My heart is so saddened each time I hear those stories. There are so many stories like that. Feel free to share more of your stories, I think it's beneficial to those considering foster parenting to know what they are getting themselves into.

holconrad profile image

holconrad 4 years ago from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Unfortunately many of the children in the system are suffering from some sort of attachment problems. My middle sons therapist told me that the fact that his birth mother was inconsistent and constantly came into and then left him actually made his attachment problems worse. My younger sons parents beat him and he "learned" that it hurt to be loved.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

I admire your stregnth. I don't think I could handle a child with RAD

holconrad profile image

holconrad 4 years ago from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Great article, I have adopted two sons from the foster system. One is ODD, RAD, the other is ODD, ADHD, RAD, and Aspergers. They have given me a great deal of both challenges and rewards.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

Mohammed thanks for your input.

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angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

They like to keep children in contact with healthy relationships they had previous. Dont beat up yourself with what you choose, most people are not equipped to care fora child with rad. The only thing I can really say, is I will pray for you.

Mohammad.Wasim 4 years ago

To be a good Foster parent is really a very honourable and highly respectable Job. I will advice to read or to listen the negative things to rectify yourself to become a good Foster parent.

I salute to all foster parents those who sincere in his job.

The people,who want to be a Foster parents, please be honest,respect the situation and the story of adopting child.

Mohammad.Wasim 4 years ago

This is the book in which certain problem is discussed

about my daughter ,still living in the Foster family.

Suggest to read this interesting Book. Please go in.

True story of a premature Birth of a baby and her father by Mohammad Wasim in Biographies & Memoirs

True story of a premature Birth of a baby and her father by Mohammad Wasim: This book actually the Documentary of life,tragedy ,suspense and romance are in this book.

jersey 4 years ago

Hi everyone, I am looking for words of wisdom here. I currently have my sister's 7 yr old daughter in my care, thru the Childrens aid Society supervision. So she is not in the "system", so we don't receive funds nor services provided to her or us. it's called kin out of care. I was there for her birth, and just been blessed to be close with her.

I myself was adopted into a foster family at the same age, I went thru some abuse. Her mother was also adopted and we grew up really close. So taking in my niece and making sure she had the best chance was my reason, rather then foster care.

Over the past 2 yrs that she has been with us, she has struggled and went thru trauma assessment. My husband and I have had so many ups' and downs' during this time, dealing with the issues she has faced, and the fact that i do everything for her.

Recently he has decided that we cannot go on any longer and I have to decide on what is best for her. I know I have feelings from my past of insecurities, my biological family didn't nor couldn't take me. I had a bad foster care/adoption experience. I am doing all that I can to ensure her safety, and that she never goes thru what I have,. The children's aid has never done a thing in the past 4 years they have known her, no support or respite for us, even tho, they knew the challenges we were all facing. she has reactive attachment disorder also. Her mother was not committed to her 2 weekly visits,and cancelled numerous times. So I requested access be removed until she can 100% commit herself. This child has suffered enough.

I am facing the difficulty of trusting that the CAS will find her a foster care family that will be able to provide her with the love and support she will need, since the CAS has not done a thing for her. I have no faith. I have a hard time knowing that I tried, but without the proper tools, my husband and I cannot give her what she needs.

How do I know what is best for her? How do I trust me giving her up is the right thing. My husband see's me getting emotionally exhausted and frazzled by my sister and the personal aspect of all this, and feels I am not suitable to handle this. He has told me otherwise, we are over but i should care for her on my own, since i am so attentive to her. What do i do? I am heart broken and lost.

if i put her in fostercare for now, maybe one day I can be there for her again. Would I be able to be involved on a regular basis? I have got her into therapy and everything.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

I have adopted one child who I have adopted. It's a very huge blessing!

FutureDrKate 4 years ago

Thanks for the article. I'm currently in the process of adopting a friend's kids from foster care. I love the books suggestions and the article in general. Thanks!

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States Author

Jess, from my own experience with sexually abused children I would disagree. Although if you define a five year old touching another child as abuse, that in itself is debatable. Are they going to abuse as adults, probably not, but they are going to teach the other children things that they shouldn't know at an early age.

Jess 4 years ago

Children who have been sexually assaulted/abused are actually not very likely to sexually abuse other children. That is an unfortunate myth that has spread due to fear and lack of research in previous times. All the current research shows that a person who was sexually abused is not any more likely to sexually abuse a child than someone who was never abused. Just wanted to share and hopefully shed some light on an often misunderstood topic.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

Muhammad that is a sad story. I am so sorry to hear of your heartbreak. That's one thing sad about foster care, is that there is always a sad story attached. It can end up happy, but underneath it began with a sad story. I am so sorry.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

Charlene, I'm going to be honest with you, we will not allow a sexually abused child in our home, because we already have a child in our home. They are known to perp on other children, and often it is best not to have them in a home that already has younger children. That's just what I heard, and you need to do what your gut tells you.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

Christytidbits, thank you for your sharing. I have not yet had to experience the saying goodbye yet, and I dread the day I do. But the Lord is in control, and that's what I try to remind myself.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

I agree ournotes2self. It is so heartbreaking. :)

Mohammad Wasim 5 years ago from To become a good human being need love.

Foster parents is a noble job. To treat a strange child as his own child is not a easy job.I have a great respect such a parents.

I do not know,how far I am right to say my own experience. I will be thankful, if some one rectify me.

I have a daughter. At the age of four, I have given her a Foster care parent. The government department helped me to get the family. Due to some reason ,I could not keep her with me.

In the beginning I was very satisfied with this family. I could visit her any time.Suddenly I got a letter from Children care department that, Your daughter can not concentrate in school and she was hanging between you and Foster family. That's why ,our Children care taking department decided to visit once a week for six hours. I understand the problem of my daughter.I picked up once a week for six hours.

After a year, I got again a letter from the office that "You daughter is not satisfied with you. She asked to visit her in the Foster parent's house. I could not understand the reason of playing with me. I asked my daughter but I was not satisfied with her answer. She was scare to reply.

I had always dispute and tension with Children Care department. At last, I came to know that Foster parent want to adopt my daughter. In another word, Both Children care department and foster parent work together to take away my daughter from me. It is a long story. Dispute always created. Now my daughter is 12 years old. She totally under control of the Foster parent and do what they like to say her.I have to say, The Foster parent love her very much. No doubt.This is a great consultation for me.

She is my daughter. I love her very much. Some time in the absence of Foster parent, She take me in arms and say, I love you Papi.

I always weeping to think of my daughter but know one knows it. I am very much co-operative but I am sad.

I hope ,one day she will come to visit me.

Am I doing good for my daughter? This is also a category

of Foster parent. No feeling of his real Father.

CharleneO 5 years ago

thanks for the article, i am considering helping out a friend by fostering her niece, but am worried about how it will impact my children, i have an 8yr old and a 18month old.this little girl has been sexually abused and is only 5, i can handle stress very well, but i'm not sure the rest of my family will be able to cope.

Christystidbits profile image

Christystidbits 5 years ago

Very nicely written piece. We are currently foster parents and the child we have was reunited with her mother for a short period of time. It is absolutely heart breaking to see her go so foster parents really need to consider this. We intend to adopt this child as soon as the courts are done with all the legalities but there is still nothing in stone to say that it will definitely happen. Anybody thinking about fostering truly needs to realize that you will grow to love these children quickly and it can rip your heart out when they have to leave. And as for your comment about making money from fostering, that is definitely not the case. The cost of keeping a child is much more than what the state compensates you for. I also agree that patience and the willingness to guide in a non threatening way is essential. The child's history can make them fearful, rebellious, and even vengeful at times. A lot of love and understanding is required which can mean a lot of time so as you stated, people need to be prepared. Thank you for your story. It was great.

ournote2self profile image

ournote2self 5 years ago

The thought of a child bouncing from home to home just breaks my heart. Thanks for the great, and realistic tips!

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

Very exciting. :) You'll have to share your story!

Mdgjbc 5 years ago

Very good script am about to have a foster sister in a few mounts am so exited

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

I definitely will look into that book! Sounds great!!! It would be an eye opener for me to hear from someone else!

valeria woods 6 years ago

I've written a book on the same subject called Olives for Breakfast a book for prospective foster/adoptive parents. I was a foster child and a foster parent. I think my experiences as a foster parent were different since I fostered through Agape Child and Family Services inc. in Memphis. I would be honored if you would read my book. 20% of the profits go to Agape. You can buy my book at Barnes and Nobels .com or amazon .com just type in Olives for Breakfast. Thanks

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

No, I haven't, I will have to look into that!

pbcat profile image

pbcat 6 years ago from Austin, TX

Has anyone read Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter? She was a foster child and writes eloquently about her life as a foster child.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

I think I want to read that book, do you happen to know who it was written by?

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Very good article, thank you. Several years ago, I read the book, Another Place at the Table. I had thought I wanted to do foster care until I read that book. It was written by a woman who had had more than 100 foster children. It was an honest book. Your article is also an honest look at the problems involved.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Oh, I can't wait to read it. I'm sure it will be really informative. I may reference your hub in my page if applicable!

SamAntone 6 years ago

Well, I did it. Or should I say "doing" it: I'm writing the story in "fiction format." I've done the first two parts, with two or three more parts still coming.

Actually, the story is all written, and I'm tweaking it for HubPages readership. As I reviewed the story, I discovered I made an error: It wasn't six children they had, but seven!

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Yes you should write a hub about it. I think I would find it really fascinating. They say every adoption story has it's own tale. None are ever the same. I know I love hearing everyone's individual story!

SamAntone 6 years ago

Nice heads-up, and true: My cousin fostered a girl, who was greatly abused, then abandoned. The psychiatrists who evaluated the girl estimated that she would not warm up or open up to them before five months passed. Because of their love, and the special attention of his youngest daughter, she showed signs of trust in them before the first month was up. They quickly bonded with her, and wanted to adopt her. But because they already had six children, it almost didn't happen. It was a nail-biter ending, like a good movie. I'll have to write a hub about it, some day.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

My dad grew up in the foster care system, so I have heard many horror stories as well. Through honesty and example, my dad tried really hard to show us how we should treat others. He wasn't afraid to share his stories from growing up.

I think it's sad how so many foster parents go into it with the wrong intent, and I think that's why they end up being abusive like that. Words can hurt worse than any physical mark, and I think people often forget. Physical marks, mostly go away after time, words can stick with you a lifetime.

manic monday profile image

manic monday 6 years ago from USA

You sound like a really good foster parent! I had the foster mom from hell! She put me down every chance she got, and I starved myself because she called me fat everyday! At that time I was 135 pounds, and she weighed about 285!!!Lol, I would love to see 135 again!!!

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you very much! My aunt was very close to me, and she impacted a lot of my life. I think it's great to have that influence on your nieces lives like that.

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GarnetBird 6 years ago from Northern California

This is a wonderful, honest article. I was infertile due to Endometriosis; I feel the same way about Foster Care that you do. Since there was sexual abuse in my past, I did not feel comfortable being in a parental role around children (I have been close to my nieces; and love them of course!)I can nurture children them in a classroom setting, and feel God uses me there. GREAT hub!

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    Angela Michelle (angela_michelle)942 Followers
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    Angela has been a foster parent for eight years and adopted one of her own. She has taken many courses to help her better understand kids.

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