There are many myths that exist when it relates to foster care. Many of these myths and misconceptions may either prevent someone from becoming a foster parent or even act as barriers to a successful foster parenting journey.
Myth 1: There are many children under age 5 awaiting a foster family.
- Children under the age of 5 represent less than 30% of the children in foster care, while children under the age of 1 only represent about 7% of kids in care. It is critical to keep in mind that oftentimes, those young children are also part of a larger sibling group with older siblings who may be elementary age or teenagers. The average age of a child in care is 8.
Myth 2: I can’t be a foster parent because I will get too attached.
- Though this can be a difficult reality for a foster family, the purpose of foster care is to get attached to the foster children entering the home. That is what these children desperately need. However, that does not negate the significant loss that foster parents will feel once foster children are reunified with their families. It is a heavy burden, one that is challenging and emotional to navigate during a family’s fostering journey. It is almost important to note, however, that foster children have experienced significant loss and trauma, to a degree that a child, no matter the age, ever should. As a society, it is our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable of our population and fulfill the needs of these children during this time. If we as mature, stable adults can step in so that they experience a little less loss and trauma, why wouldn’t we?
Myth 3: Adoption is the primary permanency goal in foster care.
- The primary goal of foster care is for children to be reunited with their birth families. About 50% of children who enter foster care will return home to their families, while another 25% of children exit foster care with the permanency outcome of adoption.
Myth 4: All foster children have experienced physical and sexual abuse.
- Neglect is the highest reason for entry into foster care. Parental substance abuse is the second highest percentage reason for entry into care. It is important to remember, however, that children enter foster care at no fault of their own, and each deserves love, safety, and stability, no matter the reason they enter care.
Myth 5: The problem is too big. I can’t make a difference.
- Foster care is a major crisis in the United States. It cannot be fixed by one foster family. However, the impact that a foster family will have on each child placed in the home has the potential to influence generations to come. It takes one family at a time to show children from hard places what it means to be unconditionally loved and supported.
Myth 6: Foster children will be grateful to be in your home.
- After all, you went through all sorts of paperwork, appointments, interviews, and phone calls to become a foster parent. You sacrifice so much to be a foster parent. Imagine, though, what it must feel like as a child in foster care – you have been removed, involuntarily, from your family. You may not understand why. You have to change schools; you don’t know if you will see your siblings or pets again; the new home smells different; you have new siblings; you miss your teacher and your classmates; and instead of sleeping on the top bunk, you are now stuck on the bottom bunk. The inherent trauma of entering foster care is significant, and it is critical for foster parents to remember that it is not a responsibility of the child to be grateful to be in a safe and loving home.
Myth 7: Working alongside the child’s biological family is too hard.
- Children in foster care oftentimes have a strong desire to be reunited with their families. While partnering with the biological family can be challenging and complex, it is also deeply rewarding and important for the child in foster care. The child, no matter the permanency outcome, has a deep connection with his/her family, and any negative feelings associated with reunification are oftentimes sensed by the foster child. If something is wrong with their birth family, isn’t that the case for them too? They’re related, aren’t they? Honoring and loving a child’s biological family is a way to also love the foster child in the home. In addition, many parents of children in care were also in foster care themselves and experienced trauma as well.