Plenty of stereotypes surround foster care, and most of them are just myths. Here are a few of the most common:
#1 – Foster parents are in it for the money.
Foster parents receive a stipend to cover the expenses of the children they care for, but this sum of money rarely covers a parent’s costs, much less provide an income. Given the extraordinary round-the-clock demands of being a foster parent, few if any people would be willing to say that the money is a motivating factor.
So why do they foster?
Quite simply, the average foster parent lives by a deeply held conviction to help those in need. They recognize that these children would have nowhere to go and no one to turn to were it not for someone willing to step up, and they accept this call.
#2 – The system is too broken for me to make a difference.
High-profile abuse cases make shocking headlines and often call a spotlight to the failures in a particular case or the inadequacies of the child welfare system. While any department or agency will continually find ways to improve, the Department of Human Services generally succeeds in keeping children safe and meeting their needs.
The problem is, the physical needs of a child are just a part of what we as human being needs in life. A system is not designed to provide love, meaningful relationships, a sense of identity, or stability.
While it is up to child welfare experts to provide for the physical protection and provision of these children, it’s a community responsibility for us to provide them with love, opportunities and enrichment to help them succeed.
At Fostering Hope, we’ve discovered that when these are provided, we do in fact make a difference.
#3 – Kids in foster care are “bad kids.”
Kids in foster care have experienced unthinkable rejection. They’ve been neglected or abused by those who are supposed to love them unconditionally. This trauma can, and often does, manifest itself in bad behavior. But bad behavior resulting from trauma is not a reflection on the person, nor is it irreversible. With the right relationships, understanding of trauma, and guidance, these kids can do amazing things.
#4 – There are bigger issues in our community like homelessness and crime.
Foster care is a funnel into many of the most perplexing and challenging problems our community faces. Children of trauma, without support, frequently become adults who end up on the streets, in our jails, coming to our food kitchens, and frequenting our hospital ERs. Half of all inmates and a third of chronically homeless adults are former foster children.
By supporting foster children and the families who care for them, you do more than meet the needs of an individual. You change the trajectory of his or her life, and possibly generations to follow. This, in effect, turns off the spiggot that feeds these larger community challenges.