To begin, I must say that there are many more than 10 things that we did not know about foster care and A LOT more that we have yet to find out. But after talking to many people, some common questions and misconceptions came up and I wanted to share some of them! If there is one thing that we can do with this this blog, it would be to make people more aware about the foster care system & how it works!
1. Yes, you do get to choose which age range of children you would like to take in your home.
A lot of people have asked this question, even though we figured this was true, I wanted to address it!
You do not just sign up to be a foster parents & then get handed children that you are not equipped to care for.You also get to be specific about things like gender, number of children that you can care for at one time, whether or not you feel prepared to take on any specific child and if you feel equipped to care for children with specific visible special needs or not.
You also have to freedom to say no to a placement call if it is best for you & your family. Nothing counts against you, a good system is going to want to set you up for success and protect the kids from further harm in the process!
2. The requirements to become a foster parent are a lot different than we initially thought.
Some requirements (bot not limited to these) are:
You do have to be 21 years or older. You do not have to be married. You do not have to own a home, renting is okay.
I thought that they’d maybe check our credit (they do not but they do ensure that you are financially stable).
I had no idea that they would check our physical health (we both needed to have a recent physical & a TB test preformed).
You pets will need up-to-date rabies shots and more.
3. You do not have to be rich
The average income of a foster family is significantly less than that of a non-foster family. What does that mean? Most families who sign up for foster care are middle class or even low-income families. There is also help with costs associated with foster care, in the form of a stipend or reimbursement, (depending on the agency/state) for each child to cover basic needs for that child. Though you want to be financially stable with bringing in any child into your home & family, don’t allow the worry of financial costs stop you!
4. You will have your life under a bit of a microscope.
We knew that it wasn’t as easy as just signing up to become foster parents and then being placed with children the next week. But we didn’t know that we’d have an extensive packet to fill out with pretty personal questions. Questions like, “What was your childhood like?”. Woah, it got real serious really fast!
That’s not to mention the two interviews & the home studies that we have to look forward to! Needless to say, you need to be prepared to be an open book. Even when you have nothing to hide, it can be intimidating. I can understand the reasoning behind it to an extent. These children are coming from beyond broken circumstances, the last thing that they need is to be passed around to the care of people who are less than equipped to handle their specific situation.
5. In the State of Virginia (at least) when you become certified to foster, you automatically become certified to foster-to-adopt as well.
There are no extra requirements to adopt a child within the foster care system once you have become a foster parent. So, if we find a child that we feel fits our family well & they are eligible for adoption…we can go through with that process! (And yes, we would love for that to happen!)
6. There ARE other resources for foster parents…
We have not gotten to see this side of things first hand, and I am sure that we will learn more as we go along (especially when we actually become certified), but there are a ton of resources out there & thank goodness! There are parenting classes specifically for foster parents, foster care support groups & private organizations like Becoming Families that are here to help foster parents be as equipped as possible! One thing that we’re learning already is that the foster care & adoption community is one of the most supportive, loving and open groups of people that we have ever come across!
If lack of a current support system is stopping your from foster care, do not fear…there are people ready to help equip you!
7. Kids in Foster care have their own healthcare through their local government.
This was something that I worried about when beginning to consider foster care. I wondered how we were going to afford healthcare for a child if they were not legally ours to put on our own healthcare? Each child is covered through Medicaid so there is no stress there!
And there is possibility of these services to be continued even after they are adopted.
8. We were unaware of the daunting reality of the need for foster families.
The more & more that I research about the statistics of foster children, the more that my heart break & I am pushed to pray for these sweet kids.
Did you know that there are over 5,000 children in the Virginia Foster Care system alone?
Did you know that over half of those children were placed in 4 or more homes within a year?
Did you know that Virginia Beach has the second highest number of foster children than any other city in Virginia with over 200 as of last November?
Did you know that in the State of Virginia, a child spends a year and a half (on average) in the Foster Care System before being placed in their forever home?
If reading that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what else would. Honestly, I am ashamed of not being more aware of some of these things before now. So often there are serious needs in our own backyard that we are so blind to. If anything, this process is already opening my awareness & growing my heart.
9. There are grants available for adoption through foster care & some companies even help cover adoption costs!
For starters, adopting through the foster care system is on of the least inexpensive ways to adopt (though it is not for everyone).
For some, like us, the thought of adoption was always put off because we knew how expensive it was. Not too many people just have tens of thousands of dollars just sitting around that can be put towards adopting a child…but thankfully there is help! We haven’t looked into what grants are available or if Zach’s job offers adoption cost reimbursement but we plan to cross that bridge when we get there.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there is help (and even more so that our God will provide us the financial ability to adopt a child if & when that becomes a reality!)
10. You do not have to have it all together to decide to begin the process of becoming a foster parent.
I was initially a little antsy about beginning this process, feeling like maybe we needed more time to get our home in order, fill out the paperwork & have all of the requirements that we needed.
Our first foster care class was an introduction, we weren’t just thrown into it. And if we wanted to at that point (or any other point) we could have & can still decide to stop if this isn’t for us.
We just had our first home study and even then, the social worker did not inspect our home yet. She knew that we had only just received some of the information about things that we needed (like a fire extinguisher) & that we were still working on getting and that was okay! From what we have seen, a good foster care agency will work with you: answering all of your questions, ensuring that you are where you need to be and equipping you the best that they can.
If you are interested in foster care at all, even if not quite at this moment, I encourage you to attend an interest meeting & check it out. You may be surprised about how your heart is moved!
As some people have asked about the things that we need help with gathering as we prepare for little ones in our home, I have created a baby registry to compile a list for ourselves of what we still need.
It is changing on a regular basis as we have no expectation from others but feel free to check it out here!
MacDonald Baby Registry