Foster Care 101: Tips For Successful Foster Parents

Foster care seems to be a lesson in contradictions in our country. It is lauded as the most noble choice that a couple can make. It’s suggested as an alternative to those who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an international adoption or fertility clinic. Foster parents open their homes to children who need a place to stay, kids who are suffering from neglect or abuse. They’re saviors for children who have no where to turn.

And yet, there’s a second perception of foster care that clouds this altruistic endeavor. We talk about kids going into “the system” as if its a death sentence. We hear stories of the foster homes who are only involved to earn government support checks. Media coverage highlights the horror stories and omits the thousands of families who do the best they can to help. Groups come together to fight against the government program who supports and monitors foster families, Child Protective Services.

Foster care has two very different public personas. So I decided to sit down with some people who knew the program best. I spoke with two sets of foster parents, as well as a social worker and CPS employee. They provided me with insight into this often stigmatized and overlooked system. Even better, they talked about the rewards of helping children and why that makes it all worth it.

Here are their tips for becoming successful foster parents: what it takes and why you need to have a plan.

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  • Eileen

    Thanks so much for this! As I’ve said before, I’ve always been really interested in being a foster parent once I have a stable home of my own, and it’s so great to hear perspectives on the issue from people who aren’t White Oleander or Michele Bachmann…and I had NO idea about the short-term offerings! That’s such an awesome way to support single parents who don’t have family/close friends to fall back on.

  • RighttoWorkMom

    I can’t believe you’ve done it again. You had Cross write a piece about adoption a few months ago, and that was not long after she explained that she had no intention of adopting. Her article reflected her lack of experience and knowledge. Now you’re having her write about being a foster parent when she has no experience there either?

    I appreciate her efforts in talking to others, but let’s be serious. There are countless foster parents in the U.S. alone. You take contributions from all kinds of parents. You could have very easily had an experienced foster parent write this, but you didn’t. I’ve written for you before (all of my submissions have been posted), but I stopped pretty quickly. Now I’m done reading your site as well. I don’t expect hard-hitting journalism here, but I at least expect enough credibility that you make the best effort with what you do post, and you have not done that here.

    And Ms. Cross, I’m personally disappointed in you. How would you feel if I started making submissions about infertility struggles? I’ve never had that kind of problem, but perhaps I can go talk to someone who has – because that’s the same thing, right?

    • Koa Beck

      Hey RighttoWorkMom. I’m unclear as to what you’re contesting exactly. We’ve published first person accounts by foster parents in the past, but that wasn’t Lindsay’s intention in writing this piece in which she sought out to interview families and professionals in the field.

    • bl

      I admit, at first I thought this article was a little weird because the author hasn’t expressed on this site that she’s been or is thinking about becoming a foster parent. Then I thought about it for a second and realized that writers do this all the time. You know, cover topics they aren’t personally familiar with by going out and doing research. And I think Lindsay’s research was pretty well-rounded for the intentions of this piece.

      A first-person account of foster parenting would have been equally as interesting, but might not have had all the different perspectives of the professionals as well. So I think each type of writing has a place here. And no, it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for someone inexperienced with infertility to make judgements on how it feels to struggle with it, but to interview someone and relate their story or research different treatment methods would be perfectly fine.

  • Shannon

    I’m sorry, but a writer goes out and does research with real people and your complaining? I don’t understand the problem here, but I loved the article. It made me really consider how I could handle myself in such a situation. I have great respect for the families out there dealing with children moving in and out of their lives. Giving them the love that they can while they can, and then having to watch them go. It’s very inspiring!

  • Ashley B

    I appreciated the article regardless of the author’s personal involvement with fostering and found it very informative, especially as we have talked of being foster parents before. I find it a little surprising and disturbing that some parents make it their goal to “introduce” a child to a church; since this isn’t adoption, and that child likely won’t be yours forever, it seems a bit presumptive to try and push your religious beliefs on a child that in all likelihood will move to a previous/different home where the religious teachings might not be the same. Trying to pass that off as “helping” the child is bizarre and to me it seems as inappropriate as teaching them your personal politics. Yeesh.

    • Banana nut muffin

      Taking a child to church does not equal to pushing religion on them.
      I don’t see anything wrong with sharing your values. Forcing somebody to get
      Baptized, for instance would be crossing the line.

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