Why I Don’t Think Being A Foster Mom Equates Insta-Sainthood

Just because someone is a foster mom, that doesn’t automatically mean they are a good mom.

Just because someone has the heart and desire to care for children who aren’t their own biologically doesn’t mean they don’t face the same issues as we do. By canonizing them we take away their right as parents to complain, to worry, to bitch, to vent and to voice the concerns that so many of us only caring for our own children are allowed to do. Foster moms aren’t saints. The majority of them are just people who want to help a child in need. We can in turn help those parents by treating them just like normal parents.

There are so many wonderful, generous, loving foster parents in the world. People who take “unwanted” children into their home and care for them with as much love and thoughtfulness as any biological “good” parent would. I admire these good foster parents greatly. It must be hard opening your heart and home to a child knowing that one day, long before they are an adult, they may leave you. I would love to one day become a foster parent myself, when I have the extra time, money and space to devote to a child. It’s a huge commitment, especially considering the majority of children placed in foster care come from abusive or neglectful backgrounds.

From Children’s Rights.org:

You hear statements all the time made towards foster moms, that they are “saints” or “angels” simply because they are foster moms. Statements like these are unfair to the children in foster care. The assumption being that because they have been abused in their “birth” homes that only an angelic, extremely wonderful person could ever love and care for them. That because they have been the victims of past abuse, only someone wonderful is capable of taking them in. It puts the blame on the child, that even though they are “damaged”  by physical, emotional, or developmental problems that they are “lucky” to have a foster parent. And by making the blanket statement that foster moms are “saints” we are also insulting the foster parent, because as anyone who works in social services can tell you, or simply by reading the newspaper, we all see that not every foster mom is created equal. Even though I have respect and admiration for foster parents, it’s wrong to say that just because someone fosters a child they are a “good ” parent. Especially when you consider how many children are physically, sexually and emotionally abused while in foster care.

One of the most disturbing finds in why certain parents become foster parents is because of  financial gain. From Firststar.org:

 it can not be denied that financial gain is among a number of significant incentives leading some to become foster parents.

Judge Judy Sheindlin, supervising judge for the Manhattan Family Court, describes the foster parent typically found today in the New York City foster care system:

The typical foster parent I see is a single woman who has several biological children of her own. She is supported by welfare or social security disability. She is a high school dropout whose own kids are marginally functioning. She does not have the ability to help them with their schoolwork, and she has little hope for a brighter economic or social future.

I personally find this statement hard to believe because foster parents receive little financial compensation for caring for a child, but I suppose that in does happen in some cases. Even more alarming than the idea that someone would chose to foster a child for financial gain, is the thought someone would do it to have access to a child for sexual reasons, but there are many documented cases of this. From the Register Guard:

Kirk Garrison Sr., a 48-year-old Waldport man to whose home the state sent more than 100 foster children between 1996 and 2006, was sentenced this summer to 44½ years in state prison.

A Lincoln County jury convicted Garrison of repeatedly raping, sodomizing and sexually abusing two of his adopted foster children — a developmentally disabled daughter and a son — and sexually abusing two of his other foster children.

Garrison told that he got the children to have sex with him by putting “the fear of God in ’em. Give ’em a look. Tell them they’d go to a worse place (to live).” He also mentioned touching children on the school bus, that he “played” with the younger foster children in his home and that he made his adopted daughter and son have sex with each other so he could watch.

And from Newsitem.com:

The two victims, a five-year-old male and a seven-year-old female, were removed from Mengine’s home in January after they, and three other children, were sexually assaulted multiple times by a 13-year-old foster brother at the home between June and September. After being taken into protective custody, the boy and girl reported to authorities about being physically and sexually abused by Mengine, as well.

According to a release, Mengine allegedly assaulted them with a tennis racket. One of the children told authorities that the foster mother held their head in a bucket of water, preventing them from breathing, and also sexually assaulted them.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.dehesa DeHesa Katie

    thank you for this article!! :) its true.. i know many foster parents who feel guilty saying/sharing anything, and come to a support group totally broken and unable to share for a very long long time… they need SUPPORT and a safe place to share what they go through as foster parents…

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I really think they deserve and need to be able to vent, bitch, brag and cry like OTHER parents, thanks for reading!

  • Bows

    I am a long-time foster parent and I know many, many foster families. The vast majority, including myself, do it “for the money”. There is no such thing as a rich foster parent though, and you wouldn’t expect day care providers or teachers to take care of kids without compensation. The way I see it, I’m not being paid to take care of the kid, I’m being paid to give up the freedom of choice for a child I’m parenting.

    I don’t usually get to choose where they go to school, what church they attend (if any), what doctor appointments they go to, what therapist they see, when they go to the dentist, speech therapy, biological parent visits etc. Those are things I HAVE to do on the State’s agenda and timeline. I’m given a strict list of do’s and don’t's, told what I can and can’t talk about with them, am often forced to outright lie to them/severely avoid the truth, tell them things I don’t agree with or believe in just because their caseworker wants me to.

    Raising foster kids is hard, as you mentioned most of them have serious issues, but dealing with The System is often even harder. I’m getting paid to deal with the system, and there’s no way I’d do it for free. Many foster parents are happy to adopt their kids, get the system off their backs, and don’t mind losing the paycheck that goes with it. “Come for the money, stay for the kids”.

    I know a couple people who live off their foster care payments, because they have enough kids to do so, but they are noooothing like the welfare queens you mention. They are “career foster parents”, meaning they had jobs when they began, but became so committed to the kids that they quit working to serve their kids full time. They often take the most hard to place and troubled young kids, especially teenagers. The State knows them and knows they are not in it to get rich (which is laughable). They started fostering, found they have a gift with disturbed kids, and amazingly made a commitment to take them on as full time job.

    IDK about other states, but in my state, you have to give full financial info when you apply to be a foster parent, and prove that you don’t need the reimbursement money to survive, and that you haven’t used public assistance (food stamps, welfare etc). I could see how in more desperate cities, the State would be forced to fudge their standards, simply out of desperation. The sad fact is that there are more foster kids than foster homes to place them in. The troubling option is to either place them in an home that’s not ideal (such as a welfare queen), or…what? Put them in juvenile detention center? An orphanage? Leave them with their bio parents, or send them to jail with their bio parents? Sometimes a roof over their head and food in the fridge at a welfare mom’s house is still a HUGE improvement over their bio home.

    Now, to address the actual question in this article, I’m surprised you think foster parents don’t “get” to complain about their foster kids? Oh lord, I sure do! They delight and horrify me, just like any other kids would. I’ve never met a foster parent who was shy or slow to harp on their foster kids just like their own kids. I feel just as embarrassed and self conscious when someone points out that my foster daughter isn’t talking yet as I do with a bio daughter. Maybe even more so because the question of me adequately providing for the foster kids is constantly being raised against me by all their other care providers (docs, therapists, lawyers, case workers etc) And for that matter, no one knows they’re foster kids unless I tell them, so isn’t that a carte blanche to complain as much as I want without, le gasp, losing my sainthood? rofl

    On the other side of things, sometimes people forget that I am not 100% “responsible” for the condition of the foster kids. They have a looong and sordid history before becoming my kids. I took a toddler in to the doc’s office after I’d gotten her 4 in my home days earlier. The nurse lectured me until her face was blue about how obese the kid was, and how I was at fault for making her fat. I repeated many times that I had only been feeding this 3 year old for 4 days, but it never sank in with the nurse. Funny enough, a few months later I took her to a wellness clinic that’s required by the state, and they lectured me for her having a dip in her growth chart. Yes–they expected me to keep over-feeding her so that she’d stay on the same exponential chart line, when just months before the nurse had harped on me to get her weight down. Oh lord. THIS is what I need to get paid for.

    I could (obviously) go on about this forever. The foster care system is a mess and most states are in crisis mode. A safe place is #1 priority for the kids. Good food, clothes, schooling, love…all that is secondary and only comes with adequate funding. No one’s forking over the cash, so basically it is what it is. Foster parents may not be saints or perfect etc but we do some of the hardest work that very few others are willing to volunteer for–so what if we get paid to do it.

    As far as I know, almost every city has support groups for foster parents, if they feel like they need somewhere to vent. Otherwise, I recommend setting up a once-monthly parents group at a local pizza parlor or city park.

  • Dee

    As a foster parent, I take offense to anyone judging us as a whole from the outside. I have no idea who you are as a writer but it is apparent that anyone can look up a couple of facts on the internet and spew them into an article which yet AGAIN brings negative views upon foster parenting. I have been a foster parent for 5 years and I have had 24 children come and go from my home. I treat every one of them as my own and every dime that I have received has gone to their care and well being. Please Mommyish – I beg of you – allow a real foster parent to write an article about foster parenting. Not a closed mind with internet access and google.

  • Kris

    As a foster parent, I can attest that there are absolutely no “financial gains”. Children are given a $100 clothing allowance a year… and that has to cover everything from snow suits to blankets to bathing gear. You are given a modest monthly stipend that barely offsets the cost of formula, food, diapers, toys, baby gear, gas and tolls several times a week for agency/court visits, child care, etc. We had a special needs child for several months and (by our own choice) enrolled him in several enrichment programs to offset the risk of developmental delays in the future. We were more than happy to cover the additional expenses — but suggesting that most people are “in it for the money” is insulting.

    • Psych Student

      That is insanse! I’m not a parent, but I assume that at the rate children grow out of clothes, $100 a year for clothing won’t even keep a kid in clothes for 6 months. I wish there were enough money in the system to provide support to the foster parents who take such amazing care for kids.

  • Victoria

    My parents became fosters for the little bit of financial help, and my mom luxuriated in the attention and basked in the holy light of sainthood it bestowed on her to her friends/family/church/acquaintances. A few years later, my parents adopted the child. When the attention disappeared and the kid acted out a little, my mom was “finished.” She actually dropped my adopted sister off at the fosteragency and drove away… she really needed the applause. I ended up getting guardianship and raising my adoptive sister. So, it’s totally a valid observation that foster parents are just regular flawed people…some are better and some are worse. Foster parents that only want positive, glowing praise from society, and to be seen as Mother Teresa, aren’t in it for the family, they are in it for the kudos. Some bio mommies do this saint/martyr thing too, but it’s more tragic when the kid involved has had abuse/abandonment/emotional issues and been circling in the foster care drain for years. So sad! <3

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  • A$AP Crème Brûlée

    i know this is old but it comes up as a suggested next article if you read anything about fostering, etc on this website
    Please, please, please trigger warning this.
    It is really graphic and detailed and upsetting and nothing about the title or first parts of reading it suggest it is going to detail sexual abuse like it does.
    My heart goes out to those kids. I care about this topic, but cannot cope just reading this out of nowhere.