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.
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.
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 – Safe-Families.org.
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?