Hi, My Name is Sam...& I'm a foster parent. I've been a foster parent for a few years & have 3 adopted kids. I'd like to tell you about a few things that most people don't realize about foster kids, foster care or even foster parents. These myths tend to be everywhere & can be hurtful to the kids in our care. And we're off...
I'd Get Too Attached....
Many people say "I couldn't do it, I'd get attached" or ask "how do you not get attached to them".
Well...Yes that's the point, you're supposed to get attached. We are the kids family until they can go home....we are the Only people loving them on a daily basis...how sad would it be if we didn't love them? We get attached, we miss the kids, we're upset that they are leaving...most of the time. But that is the gig, help a kid until they go home, & treat them like you would want your kid treated at someones house. Sometimes going home isn't possible, which is why I have 3 adopted kids. However most go home, to relatives or just move on.
Foster Kids Can Hear...
Turns out they have totally normal hearing & feelings too...So please don't ask me if their parents are "drug dealers" or "mental". First it's really not something I can talk about, confidentiality rules. Second it really upsets the kids. So please have some tact, think of their feelings & just be nice to them. Questions are welcome but try be polite & not too personal.
Please don't call them foster kids, call them by their names or kiddo, or Anything but foster kid. Foster kids know they are different, they want to be normal kids. So if you see a pack of kids with me, assume they are all mine....they all have names & they are all normal kids.
And just while I'm pointing stuff out...please don't ask me "what are they". They are kids....If you are then so dense to ask "No, what color are they supposed to be?"...don't expect a straight answer, I may even laugh at you.
So You Make Money Right?
No...It costs me easily double- triple what we are reimbursed. The state helps out & reimburses us $.39-$.51 an hour. Out of the massive payout (sarcasm) comes, food, most clothing (they do get a clothing voucher for part of it), sports, toys, scouts, music lessons, trips, gas to run them all over the planet, movies, dinners out, stuff they break, school pictures, yearbooks, proms...basically everything a normal kid needs, wants & deserves.
I would make more money volunteering for free at a shelter.
Now it must be said there are Career foster parents...that doesn't mean they do this as a job, it means they CANNOT work outside the home because the kids they take require so much care you aren't allowed to. They would be kids with severe medical, behavioral or mental conditions. Those people earn every penny & then some....Just like a group home or hospital or any other facility that would be required to keep these kids safe.
So that guy you met once who's neighbors, uncles, friend made money off foster care? That guy lied...sorry to break it to you.
Foster Parents Are Not Saints
The Kids Are Not Lucky
Do I look like a Saint? I hear this almost every time someone finds out I am a foster parent. I really am not a Saint...in fact I'm an atheist so I'm pretty sure I don't qualify on about 100 levels. The basic fact is I love kids, I love helping them & making a difference in their life & even helping them go back home to their family. In fact I would say I may even be selfish for getting a houseful of kids & never having to go thru labor!
Luck...turns out that kids separated from their homes, family &, friends & stuff don't feel lucky...or necessarily happy that they aren't at home. Almost all foster kids want to go home even when it's clearly not safe to. So please don't tell my kiddos they are lucky...it makes you look a little bit insane to them. We're lucky to get to parent these awesome kids in a time when they need us.
What did they do?
No, No No, I'm a foster parent not a Juvenile justice officer. Kids come to my home because their Parents did something or didn't do what they needed to do. The kids are quite literally innocent bystanders that are made homeless by the choices of adults in their lives.
All foster kids are bad...No. In fact Most of them are just a delight. However they often do have issues, typically from their previous living conditions. Imagine if you only lived in a homeless shelter? Or you've never been to a restaurant? Or you've never been around pets? Would you know how to act? Kids adjust, they learn & turns out they learn really quickly. Give them a chance, deep down they are all good kids.
They Must Be Grateful!
Nope, not at all...they want to go home & we are not home. I won't make pancakes like their mom, I won't use the right laundry soap & I won't tie their shoes right...and they will be more than happy to tell my how I'm doing it all wrong.
It's OK, I understand. Because I picked them up from the DFS office with their "Official Foster Care Luggage" AKA a trash bag & I know their whole world is messed up right now. I know they won't appreciate anything I'm doing or the fact that I make them take a shower or brush their teeth...that will come when they are much older & remember our home as somewhere safe where they got to go to the zoo & have Nerf wars in the hallway.
To say this is a thankless job is most accurate...except you don't get paid & at some point you'll get puked on.
Bad Day with the Kids? - Just Give Them Back
Um no...Just like a real parent I signed up for this & will have rough days. I need support & kind words about how they will eventually be Ok & not be total butt heads. When you're 3 year old acted like a looney at church I didn't suggest returning him...please don't assume that's an option for me.
Also don't tell me after a long week "Well this is what you wanted"...not helpful...Ever.
A Sense of Humor
While most of the notion of foster care is scary, terrible & heartbreaking...Sometimes you just have to laugh.
Like when a kid tells you he "doesn't want to be with girls cause he'll catch ADHD"....wait, What?
Or the age old argument to brush your teeth that turns into..."Well my dad ain't go no teeth, or my mom or my sister, or my uncle or my"....turns out he was the only person with teeth in his family. So house rules you are required to keep teeth while in this house.
"Don't lick the dog" well there is a statement I never thought I'd have to make!
"Sir, we do not pee in the yard, especially in the front yard And facing the neighbors house."
Or that special day when some large guy in McDonald's said something like "Gez lady, keep your legs together" when I was out with 6 boys ranging from full ginger to full black & everything in between. Prompting 6 teens to pile in front of me & say "I'm sorry did you say something to our MOM?"...poor guy looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock. Totally made my day!
They Don't Look Like Foster Kids
So being the proud parent I am I sign up for family photo shoots every 6 months or so with us & the kids. It so happened last year was also Senior pics for my middle son. Like every parent I was showing off my kids awesome pics, in near matching Hollister, sly smiles & perfect haircuts....and that's when I got the comment. "Huh, they don't like like foster kids." Alrighty then...What exactly were you expecting lady? Dirty, tear stained clothes? Holding a broken toy? Sitting in dirt?
Really...if you have a thought so profound as "they don't look like foster kids" then you may want to keep it to yourself.
Fostering is Easy!
I Already Have Kids
Again...Nope. Anything you may have learned about parenting a regular kid that you've given birth too is pretty much out the window. It's really hard, challenging, aggravating, stressful & the best thing I have ever done. I may never know just how much I have mattered to these kids, but it sure is nice to have them call years later just to say Hi.
Think you can be a foster parent? Well get started! Those kids are just sitting there waiting for you!
Great Resources for Foster Parents
Get info & meet some kids
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- Foster Parents Community and Online Training
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- National Foster Parent Association
Lots of info, stories & articles for foster parents.
Are you a foster parent?
marilyn on November 18, 2016:
Ihave been fostering for many years ,I love what Iam doing ! this past year I have had a hard time with my agency to bad we couldn't adopt cause really it would be less stressful ,my girls are adhd the little one does not sleep in ever ,it becomes hard as we have no one for respite,but I will get through it
Bunchsusie on May 30, 2015:
I've been a foster parent 35 years, yes I'm old, I ditto all your remarks a 100 times over.
The main thing I agree with you the most is that most people just do not understand foster care!
Nana on September 19, 2014:
I am a foster parent! I have three kids right now. It is the most meaningful work that my husband and I have done as a couple in the 48 years we have been together. We were meant to do this. All 21 of the children who have come through our home have enriched our lives more than they will ever know! We salute them.
queenofduvetcover on July 21, 2014:
I enjoyed reading your lens. Thank you for caring. I am not a foster parent but I am a mom. I respect anyone who helps kids.
sarahabt on February 01, 2014:
Kids need a loving,caring parent, a home, a role model. I was a foster child. Prayer was the only thing that kept me alive, But, when I prayed, I didn't ask God for an angel or a saint, or a rich family. I ask for a family that would love me and I could love them in return. To a child who has no one, thrown from pillar to post, any old family will do, as long as there's love!
Samantha Lynn (author) from Missouri on January 31, 2014:
@Stewie4pres: Still don't know what that's looks like! lol
SteveKaye on January 31, 2014:
It's inspiring to know there are people like you who are doing so much to help others. Thank you for publishing this wonderful lens. I admire your role as a foster parent.
Stewie4pres on January 31, 2014:
Nice page. I hope i never "looked like I was a foster child". hahaha
TerriCarr on January 30, 2014:
No, I am not a foster parent. But I am glad people like you are! Amazing lens.
Deborah Carr from Orange County, California on January 29, 2014:
I have had friends who were foster parents and I agree with everything you have said. You may not be a saint, but you are a wonderful person to take on this responsibility.
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on January 29, 2014:
Excellent points here that most of us need to hear! Thanks for sharing this wonderful lens and bless you for being a foster parent. You are helping to change lives.
EllieHarper on January 28, 2014:
Great lens. Fostering is something I've thought a lot about but worry about the attachment part. Great books, A Child Called It is just heartbreaking.
anonymous on January 28, 2014:
Great lens. I take my hat off to anyone who foster's children. They are the un-sung heros of parenting
tonyleather on January 27, 2014:
I applaud your courage in fostering children. It is not something I could do, just because I never had any real paternal instinct, and would not have the patience that is undoubtedly required. Great lens!
Samantha Lynn (author) from Missouri on January 26, 2014:
@susan369: My first choice was adoption...it's a different path but more fulfilling than anything I've ever done!
susan369 on January 26, 2014:
Whatever you say, you ARE a saint. I always admired people who can love someone else's child as their own. In a way it's selfish of people wanting to have their own flesh and blood children at all costs, when there are so many children already out there who need a family. I've found your article very informative.
April Wier on January 24, 2014:
This is so touching. I have always wanted to be a foster parent. My family has had some internal issues to work out, so it is not an option, yet.
Samantha Lynn (author) from Missouri on January 23, 2014:
@Pastorshae: Sure just contact me...I hate to post my email online...but there is a contact form on my profile page!
Pastorshae on January 23, 2014:
Great article! I am a social worker and appreciate all the points you have made. I am glad there are loving people who are taking care of kids that are hurting. I would love to be able to communicate this to more people in order to get more people like yourself fostering. Do you have any ideas.
evawrites1 on January 22, 2014:
I am not a foster parent and until I read this I knew very little about it. This article brought tears to my eyes. It's a great job you (and other foster parents) are doing. I'm sorry people are so insensitive asking questions about the children's parents and calling them things like "foster kid" instead of their name. But maybe people just don't know much about the subject and they don't mean to hurt them... who knows.
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on July 11, 2013:
I used to be a foster parent and I have two adopted children. I enjoyed this lens! You certainly do need a healthy sense of humor, a strong backbone and a lot of flexibility to be a good foster parent. I would consider doing it again, but I have a few things I need to take care of first.
anonymous on June 19, 2013:
Well, I'm too young to be a foster parent now. I'm still in the Uni. But I'm definitely thinking of doing it when I get older.
Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on March 31, 2013:
i got this luck in my life, a colleague of my daughter before graduation lost her home and came to me, the girls mostly managed together, so i got a lot of joy being foster mom and dad, for few months. Ever since we are family. Pity that both my girls are living so far from me. This lens came up from google +1, what i find wonderful.
Joan4 on March 28, 2013:
I am not a foster parent, but I certainly admire those who are! What a challenge! What a joy!