Anyone have experience as a Foster Parent?

My husband and I are considering it. We have a child who is 4 3/4 and aren’t likely to have another one. While we both work full-time, I think we have time, energy and other resources to give. We own a home.

My husband is a Social Worker and tells me our state is looking for lots more foster parents.

I’d love to hear your experiences, good and bad and any recommendations you might have.


My friend’s mom did foster parenting work where I used to live.

My advice is have a thick skin and be prepared to be frustrated a lot.

She adopted one little boy out of the system and that went very well but they had an other child placed with them that was moved a year later after problems with a new social worker arose. (The child’s new social worker did not like that a ‘black’ child was placed in a ‘white’ family. She felt the little girl was not getting enough of her heritage. It was painful for the little girl to be moved again as she was only 2 and this was the only family she knew.)

Fostering can be very rewarding but from what I understand there is a lot of work involved dealing with troubled kids and taking them to all their social services visits and court appointments and things.

I also think your experience will vary greatly depending on what age children you decide to foster. My friend’s mother only took in very young children. My brother stayed in a home where they only took in older children/teenagers. He wasn’t there more than a couple of weeks and I never met the family.

I also believe you have to attend classes that teach you to be a foster parent and how the system works - I have considered it myself but right now my children are very young and I don’t have the time or energy to add more children to our family.

We had two boys and then decided to become foster parents. There certainly are problems since the children have almost surely been abused in some manner (sexually, emotionally and economically), but it is also very rewarding. We only had 7 children come into our home, but that had a lot to do with it being back when children were “warehoused” in foster homes. That means the “welfare department” (another change) would find a good home and just leave the child there. When that was changed we fought for and adopted our daughter, who would have been sent back to a home that had not improved at all.
One of our witnesses was the supervisor of foster care in our area, who had advised us to fight to keep Marie. The case ended up in the State Supreme Court. We adopted her.

Then a set of twins (boy/girl) was placed in our home (we were in good standing with our county’s social workers also). They were with us for a year and returned to the natural mother. She could not cope with them and we then adopted them. They are 24 now. The saddest part is that our oldest daughter died of ovarian cancer 5 years ago.

You probably are aware that foster parents are portrayed as only after the money and being abusive to the children. So there are times that you may think it is a thankless job. The fact that your husband is a social worker should go a long way towards making things run smoother than it is for foster parents that don’t understand the system. We never had any problems with our social workers, but still there was a learning curve at the beginning that should be much flatter for you.

When we were foster parents the idea of adoption was a real no…no and I don’t know how much that has changed. In fact, until we fought it, our neighbors would have had a better chance of adopting the children under our care than we did. Despite the fact that we did adopt three children, I still do not think that becoming a foster parent with the idea of adopting is good for either the child or the foster parents. It is very emotional when a child leaves even when you know it is going to happen. The first time I ended up in the emergency ward having my heart monitored. They sent me home with a couple of Valium.

I recommend the experience and wish you the best of everything. We do need more people like you. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your responses tanookie and kniz .

From what I read, in our state, a foster child who becomes available for adoption is offered first to the foster parents (perhaps that’s not the nicest way to put it, I don’t know - makes it sound like rent to own). However, I know that it’s much more likely that the child will leave our home after a certain amount of time. What worries me the most is how our son might react when this happens, but I know it will be really hard for my husband and me, too…

Another concern I have is how our extended family will react to a foster child and I don’t just mean will they distrust the child or be a little weird if the child is not the same as our family racially or whatever, although those are concerns. But, for instance, when my in-laws make their annual post-Christmas trek with the truckload of toys, will they remember the foster child.

Another concern is not so minor. What about the negative impact a troubled foster child might have on our child? We are not interested in fostering infants so this may be an issue.

It’s a lot to think about.

My parents do foster care, and have since I was twelve years old (going on nine years now). For six of those years they took in teenagers, and because they were so willing to work with the teenagers the social workers kept assigning them the “tough” cases that had been kicked out of all the other foster homes for acting out. We got suicidal kids, kids who’d chase me around with paring knives, kids who’d steal cars, and kids who’d get so incredibly pissed off at the fact that my mom wouldn’t let them stay out until 3 in the morning on a Tuesday with their drug-dealing friends from a city an hour away (and drive them there and pick them up later, too) that they’d disappear in the middle of the night and we’d have to call the cops to find them again. It was rough.

Eventually Mom got burned out and we started only taking in kids under the age of 6. That’s even harder because the official state position is to keep the family together, and by “family” they mean blood relations. We had two kids - a brother and sister who’d been removed from their parents’ custody after being molested and neglected - from the time they were 18 months old until they turned 5, and then the state returned them to their parents. Now we have another pair of babies, unrelated this time, and we’ve had both of them since within two weeks of birth - they’re now 2 years and 18 months, respectively - and even though I call them my little sister and baby brother, I just know they’ll be taken away too. :frowning:

That sounds so rough. Your family are really heroes.

Let me ask anyone this: How specific can one get about age? We aren’t really interested in infants and I don’t feel bad about that because many people are, but teenagers can be daunting. Can one be specific like 2 - 10?

In our case, we work with a foster care program that is state-sponsored but not state-run, and they are so desperate for foster homes that they will try to accomodate anything you ask them for. They won’t force you to take on a child you don’t feel comfortable taking, either, of course. If you specify “2-10” you’ll probably be asked to take in children outside of your age range but you would be able to say “no, we can’t do that.”

It takes a long time to get certified for foster care, at least in our state, and every single person over 18 in the household had to have a background check run and get certified for first aid and child and infant CPR. I moved away for a year and then moved back, and when I moved back I had to have a background check run again. It’s not really a problem, but it is time-consuming.

As to the extended family, I would imagine that depends a lot on both of your folks. I will tell you our experience. Neither of our families liked what we were doing, but they accepted them at family get togethers and gifts were given. It is pretty much like I said above, most people do not understand why someone would want to be foster parents. Again since your husband is in social worker, I would think both your parents would be more likely to look favorably on fostering.

When we started, we asked for a little girl. That was when we got Marie. She was 14 mos. old. Trouble was that she came with her 7 year old brother. That was the same age as our second son. Richard did not know what a comode was or how to take a bath. He had never played ball and was far behind in school. He also was sexually a 16 year old. Our two boys helped Richard and also kept him somewhat under control. We learned a new concept, which back then was called hyperactivity. Both Marie and Richard were hyperactive. We kept Richard for over a year and then the conflict with the other three children became too much and we had Richard removed. I say three because Marie never liked Richard, which perhaps had something to do with his sexual perversion. He was the one that I needed valium for the night after he left. We then took in at different times two boys again the same age as our second son and a girl a couple years older than Marie.

We got Marie when she was 14 months old and thought that it would be great for her to play in our fenced in back yard. The first surprise my wife had was with a play pen. She put Marie in it and started cleaning the house. Marie stayed in it a short time and then did a somersalt (sp?) against the side which turned the play pen over and she never stayed in the play pen again. March came and Marie was put in the back yard. A little while later my wife saw her in the front yard. At 1-1/2 years old she could climb a chainlink fence. She would visit a little boy that lived behind us. He couldn’t climb the fence 4 years later when they moved.

I believe that the social workers knew what a hand full Marie was and that is why they stopped giving us more children. During this time our boys were very helpful with all the children. We worried about the effect it was having on them, especially the youngest. Before Richard left we had a family meeting and all of us discussed the situation and everyone got to vote on whether Richard was to go. After that our second son actually told my wife about a boy in his class that needed a foster home. That was the last child that we took in during that period.

It was also hard on our boys when the twins came to live with us. And again we wondered if we were doing the right thing. Looking back I have no doubts it was the right thing. In the first place, there is no question about them being true brothers and sisters. Even with the question of Richard we all look back on that time and laugh about the things that happened. When our oldest graduated from high school his senior prediction was that he would have 10 children and they would all be named Marie. Our second son majored in sociology and went into social work. He is now at Temple getting his masters. I think our concerns were justified, but they turned out to be just concerns. My advice is that you be sure and include your child in the process.

One piece of advice I have is for you to remember they are in need of foster parents. That can work to your advantage as far as the age and sex of the children you take in. Also like in other things, if you let them they will take advantage of you. If we had put our foot down, we probably would have still have gotten Marie, but not Richard (that is just an example and not something I regret).

One other thing I would like to add. There is a natural conflict between foster parents and the natural parents. You will dress the child all up for a visit with the natural parents and then they will not show up. The child is heart broken that “Mommy” didn’t show up and you are the one that has to console them and go thru the acting out that comes later. During a visit the natural parent will say things to the child about you that confuses the child and again you have to suffer the consequences. The other little girl we had, once sat in my arms and read a letter from her father to me. She was trying to make me jealous, but in that case I just thought it was cute. The point is that the children will also play games with you. Now after all that, please do not fall into the very common tendancy of foster parents to make this into more than it really is. The foster parents that really got us into foster care had more children than I could possibly count and the wife would give each one of the children a new name. She was a wonderful foster mother in everything else but she went out of her way to show her distain for the natural parents. It always made the situation worse rather than better.

Sorry, I got going and couldn’t stop. I guess you can tell that I’m still a foster parent at heart.

Back when I was 12 (I’m 41 now, so that was…1974), my parents became foster parents. The first kid they took in was 17. Big mistake. My sisters were 14 and 11. He was much older than us, didn’t want to be around us and didn’t like the fact that he was in a foster home. He was stuck in my room and it didn’t go well for either one of us. In retrospect, I can’t say as I blame him, being stuck rooming with a hyperactive 12 year old when you’re a 17 year old and know everything. :rolleyes:

A few years later, they took in a younger girl - I think. She was only with us for a few months at most.

When I was a teen and we lived on a hobby farm, my parents took in two brothers, aged 10 and 11. We had them for many years. I became their big brother, taking them to wrestling events (I didn’t like it, but they did) and so forth. Had they the opportunity, my parents would have adopted them, but it was a big no-no at the time.

Eventually they went back to their mother, then a few months later, back into a different foster home. Sadly, they spent their last few years of high school bouncing from one home to another. My parents were pretty upset with the system over this, but the social workers kept them out of the picture, as they were not relatives of the boys.

This led to my parents not wanting to be a part of the foster care system any longer.

(To be honest, my parents had no business being foster parents.)

I was a foster-kid.

My situation was rather different than most. The family that took me in already knew me, they knew my parents, and knew about some of my problems.

But, they became certified as foster parents just to take me in.

I was your classic troubled teen. I’m sure I was a big stress on them. An embarrasement at times too. It was tough for me, them, there other own kids, my parents, the neighboors, well you get the idea…

I love them dearly. I still choke up just thinking about how important it was to me that they took me in, and loved me.

I just wanted to let you know that you can make a difference for some kid too.

I’m an orphan and I have been in tons of foster homes. If your heart is in the right place you really should do it. Just please don’t give up on your kid.