No Two Foster Families Look the Same

What Could Your Family Look Like?

The trouble with stereotypes is that they rarely are accurate. My idea of the stereotypical foster family was one who always had about six foster kids in their home. Their home arranged half warehouse, half dormitory style. And, of course they drove a van constantly full and on the go.

Granted, many foster families DO look like that, and that’s great! I admire and respect these families, both the parents and biological children, who welcome foster kids into their home either for a few days or sometimes a few years at a time.

However, sometimes this deters other families from ever seriously considering fostering a child, because they think this is what is required of every foster family.

I hope to dispel that myth so that more families will entertain the possibility of fostering a child.

Our Family

I will begin with our family. My wife and I had been married over 20 years when we first considered foster care. Our first intent was to straight adopt a child through foster care. Many children in the foster care system, sadly, are no longer working toward reconciliation with their biological family. So, they are available for adoption.

After our home study (with encouragement from our case worker), we decided to also take foster only children. These are kids whose families are working toward reconciliation.

Our first, and only, placement was an eight-month-old boy. We thought he would live with us for a few weeks. 15 months later we adopted him.

For now, he is the only child we have fostered.

Other Examples

Besides foster families who foster many kids over several years, and ones like our family who foster only one child, here are a few other examples of foster families.

  • Straight Adopt – I know several families who met a child or sibling group who were in foster care and available for adoption. I have blogged about two such families, one from the adoptee’s viewpoint and the other from the adoptive mother’s. You can read about them here:
  • Level of Need – Every child who is in foster care has suffered loss and trauma. Therefore, they will have needs that children fortunate enough to have not experienced these things probably won’t have. Still, some children will have a greater level of need than others. Some foster families intentionally foster children with a high level of needs. These children may have physical challenges. Others have difficult emotional challenges to overcome. Not every family is capable or prepared to foster a child with high needs. But you might be.
  • Kinship – Usually after CPS becomes involved, they first look for an extended family member, such as a grandparent or sibling, who can and is willing to care for the child until the parents are allowed to reconcile with their child.
  • Safe Families – I am introducing another option that may be new to you. Safe Families is an organization that recruits, screens, and trains families to step in to help families in times of need. Safe Families provide care for children for a short period of time until the biological family can get back on their feet. To learn more go here –

Bottom Line

The reasons a child needs a foster family are numerous. Yes, many have faced heartbreaking trauma and need families prepared to help them heal. Others have physical needs that require constant care that their biological family could or would not provide. Then many more simply need a safe and loving place to call home for a short period of time while their own family gets their life together.

The purpose here is to shift from the stereotypical mindset of what a foster family looks like and to the fact that every family struggles at one time or another. The question is, how can your family lend a helping hand to another family or child in need? What could your family look like?

If you are a foster family, what does your family look like?


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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “No Two Foster Families Look the Same

  1. I started fostering as a single mom in 2008 with the hope of creating my forever family through adoption. Seven years later, I have that forever family, but not in the way I had imagined. I have a 22-year-old “honorary daughter” who happens to be my first foster son’s stepmom. I have an “honorary son-in-law” in my first foster son’s father, two grandchildren (1st foster son’s younger siblings), and one “very special little boy” in my life every day. I have a 4 1/2-year-old “honorary son” who I have been co-parenting with his single father since he left my care for his several years ago. And I was blessed to adopt my youngest son last year.

    I don’t think anyone goes into foster care thinking, “I’m going to make these FAMILIES my family,” but that is exactly what happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  2. We began the foster certification process with the intent to adopt an early elementary school aged child. We ended up adopting a baby and then a year later, her 3-year-old sister.

    “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

  3. When my husband and I decided to foster, we planned to begin with just one foster child younger than our 4 yr old daughter. That quickly changed with the first placement that came as a sibling duo. Then, a few months later we were asked to help out a few days with a baby. Once we saw we were able to handle four, we soon were asked to take in two more children. We had the space available and could not see letting the children in need of a place sit in a shelter or be shifted around. We did not plan to be that “typical foster family” driving the 15 passenger van, however, God did. We purchased a 15 passenger van and loved having the space to drive our family every where we needed to go. We did not intend to be that family that “adopted out of the system.” However, God did! Even when we were full-up with kids – birth, adopted, and foster, we were asked to take one more placement just over 15 years after beginning what was supposed to be our foster care (only) journey. That “one more” was the half-sibling of our then 4 yr old adopted daughter and the baby girl would be coming to our home straight from the hospital. Of course we said yes! What a blessing is was to have her and get to adopt her. She is still the “baby” of the family and is 13. God knew I needed one more precious baby to hold and cuddle. That big van??? We still have it and use it as a ministry with our church. We also need it when our grand kids come to visit as we still have three teens at home and are down to a minivan that will not seat all the grand kids, adopted kids, birth kids, … you get the point. We love our big family (4 birth, 6 adopted, +48 former foster children) but realize that the family we chose is not for everyone and is not any better than those that foster or adopt on a smaller scale.

    • I love your story Donna. Thank you for taking the time to share some of it here. Your willingness to follow God’s lead as you fostered and adopted children is inspiring.
      We need all kinds of foster families. Ones that look like yours and those that look like ours. And everything in between.