Foster care

Husband and me have been thinking about becoming foster parents. To offer temporary shelter to a kid.

What appeals to me is sharing what I have. What holds me back is the feeling I will be “mopping up water while the tap is running wide open” as we say in the Netherlands. Let some sad/bad parent ruin them, and then let me and my family put in an awful lot of energy and resources to undo the damage for maybe 10 %.

Is there any way to get to be a foster parent to a non-damaged kid? I mean a kid in bad circumstances, but helpable, and not already damaged with a personality disorder or a reactive attachment disorder? Or do you have to wait for someone like that just to cross your path?

I haven’t fostered, but I have worked with children in children’s homes, so I’ll just add my perspective from that angle.

You’ll always make a difference. In my work we’ve sometimes had children come in from very problematic backgrounds and sometimes they would go back after a fairly short time with us. Even then, it was noticeable that in that short time we had modelled some very good things. So many children grow up with little support and stability and no sense of unconditionality of family. To show them that even a little makes an enormous difference. You can’t magically “fix” children so that they’ll never have any problems and be model citizens forever more, but you will make a difference. There is no way of knowing how children react to anything in advance. There are children I’ve known who’ve seen terrible things and who are perfect now. Beyond perfect: they blow my mind every day. Some don’t come out unscathed, but are still incredible people. Children are so resilient, and they absorb everything around them. Anything you can show them will benefit them and it will not be wasted.
You do have a point: when the children would go home and then come back that was always very difficult, but it doesn’t mean your effort didn’t make a difference.

Bear in mind that it will likely not be apparent in gratitude, or anything like that. (I’m sure you’re aware of that!)

I’ll ask you this though, because that’s always what we wanted to hear when hiring new people: you mention sharing what you have, and that you’re looking for a sense of accomplishment. But do you also want to do it because you want to? Does it appeal to you because it seems like something (for lack of a better word) fun? Challenging fun perhaps, but something you want nonetheless?

If you only want to do it because it seems like a “good” thing to do, I would recommend you reconsider. Do it because you want to. Because you want all of it, tantrums and swear words and picky eating included.

Gracer, thanks for that. No., you’re right, it would be more out of a sense of duty. I’ve sought out a few people in my life that were my “projects”. The results were mixed for all involved. But I do know the times I had such a person project, were the times I felt most alive, for better or worse.

Perhaps an alternative, or something to start with: my parents’ neighbours, also in the Netherlands, have children through a foster care programme for the weekends. The same children every time.

It looks to me like what they are offering those children is so wonderful. They’re always messing about with the little boat at the bottom of the garden! :slight_smile: But above all of course it gives them a place of calm and stability every week, a place for them to develop as children.

If you like I could enquire what organisation or programme it is?

I would encourage you to keep thinking about what you want to get out of it. If it’s a project and you’ll only be happy if you “fix them”, it might not be the right thing for you? OTOH I do know what you mean about feeling alive! Working with children does make me feel alive!

Some of the cases I know of foster care were kids who didn’t come from particularly bad backgrounds, but for example the dad is in the military and the mother took sick. This kind of thing used to get arranged informally, but nowadays it’s become more and more important to get the paperwork right, and sometimes the kids don’t have any local relatives who can take them in for the relatively-short time needed - or the relatives available are willing but not the best people to be able to assist a 13yo with homework (thinking of a case close to me where Grandma is illiterate).

gracer, your remark on wanting to “fix” someone is spot on, and I don’t think you can fix anything as a foster parent. And I looked up weekend care, which is indeed is a special form of foster care. I’ve got lots to think about.

I wonder if there really are, in the Netherlands, such no-fault cases left like Nava describes. You’d think such kids would just stay with a teacher or something.

There are two or three earlier threads by Dopers thinking about becoming foster parents. by Lissla Lissar and jensbiz. I wonder if they decided to become foster parents eventually.

You really should contact your local foster care agencies. TBH, with your quite understandable caveats about not wanting really messed-up kids, I can’t see you being accepted.

If all you want is to be helpful, though, and perhaps be consistent enough to be an aunt and uncle type person, then maybe respite care could be a way to do that. These would be kids that would, by definition, be very hard to look after, but that’s much easier to deal with for short spurts and could be very rewarding. Again, you’d have to apply via your local social services team and you might find yourself bumped out by people who are also willing to be foster carers. However, one friend of mine (in England) has occasional respite care from a couple who work full-time and couldn’t do foster care. Her daughter has pretty much all the needs you can imagine, except aggressive behaviour, and I don’t think that’s that uncommon really.

While googling I found the option to offer a three week vacation to a poor European kid. I think I’ll do that first. That actually sounds like fun!

I don’t know about the Netherlands ( or Spain ) but typically in the US those cases where kids “just stay with a teacher or something” for any length of time involve the teacher/family friend/neighbor either becoming a foster parent or obtaining legal custody. Like Nava said , these things used to be done informally in the past, but now having the proper paperwork has become more important.

In the U.S., some foster agencies specialize in kids with special needs, typically due to medical or behavior issues. The County will contract with these agencies when they have a child who will need special care and parents with more training. So it is possible to find agencies that won’t have the most difficult cases.

I have no idea if the Netherlands has similar arrangements, but you have nothing to lose by contacting a local agency and discussing it with them. Be honest about what you can offer, and they can point you toward a suitable foster agency, a different type of program like the three-week vacation you mentioned, or discourage you altogether if what you are able to provide doesn’t match the reality of what these kids need.

And in my opinion (based only on the little you said, so possibly wrong), you might be more suited for something like Big Brothers/Big Sisters where you are helping kids in a more limited fashion. The vast majority of kids needing foster care or a mentor have had some difficulties in their lives that has led to them needing care from someone other than their parent, and these difficulties are going to have shaped their personalities in some way. They are going to need extra love, understanding, and patience no matter what. If you’re unsure about it, start with something smaller than taking in a child full time.

That looks great! I think parents of a friend of mine did something like that. They stayed in touch with those kids and had a good experience. And yes, it does sound like fun!! :smiley:

I’d say start there and see how it goes. It might change your perspective on fostering, too… And please do report back if you do decide to do this!