7 Things Foster Parents REALLY Want You to Know

Dawn Davenport


Most folks don’t seem to know what to make of those crazy folks called “foster parents” who they see with a carload of kids in the school pickup line or herding a gang of little ones through Costco…usually looking harried and hurried. Well, here are a few things foster parents want you to know.

What do foster parents want you to know about foster care?

1. We Aren’t Saints.

The general public seems split on how to view foster parents, but many believe that they must be saints because only someone with a direct line to God would take in children who don’t belong to them.


Foster parents are people who see a need and ask, “Why not” rather than “Why.” They don’t necessarily have more patience (or less intelligence) than the rest of us, but they are willing to inconvenience themselves to be a soft landing place for a child who is going through the worst time of their lives.

In my experience, foster parents generally like children and are flexible by nature. They can accept a certain amount of chaos, but they are far from saints. They get frustrated and cranky, just like the rest of us. Foster parents worry about their kids like the rest of us. They have good days and bad days like the rest of us. The difference is despite all of this, foster parents still say “why not”.

The real problem with viewing foster parents as saints is that it makes being a foster parent out of reach for most of us. And the world needs more foster parents, not less.

…the world needs more foster parents, not less.

2. We Aren’t in it for the Money.

Those in the general public who don’t see foster parents as saints tend to see them as “in it for the money”. No foster parent in the US is getting rich. Yes, they receive a monthly subsidy that helps defray the expenses of adding a child to their family. However, most foster parents spend more on their foster child than they receive in that subsidy.

And for the record, it is particularly infuriating when someone questions how much a foster parent is getting paid in front of the child. Can you imagine how it must feel to a child to believe that the only reason he is welcome in your home is that you are getting paid?!?

3. Yes, It Hurts When They Leave.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “I could never be a foster parent because I would get too attached,” I would be a rich woman. Well, NEWS FLASH: Foster parents do get attached and it hurts like heck when the child leaves!

It is particularly irksome to foster parents to hear someone say that they couldn’t foster because they would get attached. It implies that the only reason a foster parent is able to foster is that they are callous insensitive people who don’t love these children. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

To foster well means to love without caring that your heart will likely be broken, because you believe that every child deserves a home where they are treasured even though they are only there temporarily.

When a Foster Child Leaves, a Scar Remains, poignant thoughts from a foster dad.

4. The Kids Are Not Grateful.

Don’t expect our foster kids to be grateful to be in our home. They probably aren’t. Most kids would give anything to be back home with their parents regardless of the reason they were removed. Being removed from their parents was traumatic even if it was for good reason, and trauma is hard on kids. Expecting gratitude is a step too far.

5. Don’t Speak Bad About Their Parents.

The goal of the foster care system is to heal the birth family so that the children can go home. This is not always possible but it is always the goal. Our job as a foster parent is to help this family and speaking ill of them, especially in front of the children, does not help.

6. Most Kids Will Go Home.

Don’t assume that our foster kids will become available for adoption or that we are only fostering with the hope that we will be able to adopt them. About 50% of foster kids are eventually reunified with their parent and about 25% are adopted by a non-family member, usually their foster parent. And for goodness sake, please don’t talk about adoption in front of the kids until we tell you that we are planning to adopt them. And even then, don’t expect the child to be thrilled. Most children, especially older kids, will view adoption by their foster parents with a mix of excitement and sadness.

…don’t expect the child to be thrilled. Most children, especially older kids, will view adoption by their foster parents with a mix of excitement and sadness.

7. A Little Support Goes a Long Way.

Foster parents are not super-human. When we are having a bad day, it doesn’t help to be reminded that “we can always send them back” or that we brought this on our families or ourselves. Yes, we can ask for the child to be placed with another family, but we don’t take this decision lightly. Sometimes we just need a hug and a listening ear, so hold the judgment and advice, please.

Remember these seven points when you cross paths with a foster family. As you interact, give some thought about whether you could join their ranks. They are more like you than you think.

If you are a foster parent, what do you want people to know?


Image credits: popofatticus; tamckile

26/02/2020 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog | 6 Comments

6 Responses to 7 Things Foster Parents REALLY Want You to Know

  1. Avatar Suzanne says:

    Hi, we started our process through foster care in 2012, we adopted siblings in 2013. I struggled for a good three years, I didn’t bond with the kids and I felt like a terrible person. Not only that when you bring abused children into your home it brings out the stuff that you haven’t dealt with. I went to therapy and it helped. I already had two grown children when we adopted, my husband didn’t have any kids so I thought why not adopt kids that need help. The 6-year-old at that time he is now 14, was extremely traumatized, there were behavioral issues right away and they still continue. We have him in counseling and recently I had him psychologically tested so we can know how to help him. When the kids were just foster I told my husband I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t equipped to handle a child with special needs. We were so close to not adopting but I saw how distraught my husband was and I knew the kids would be devastated, so I went ahead and did it. Needless to say, we ended up in marriage counseling (which helped). It has definitely been very challenging but I tell myself they were put in my life for a reason. I know I’ve learned much more about myself because of this experience. This is a blessing but sometimes it’s hard to see it like that.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Thanks for sharing your story – there are so many highs and lows in the fostering experience. But I love that you came to “they were put in my life for a reason…” That says it all so well. Thanks for serving and loving!

  2. Avatar Takayla says:

    Not all birth families abuse their children and they don’t hate you, sometimes they are just as worried as you are.

    Imagine your child being removed from your care due to you being homeless or having an emotional break and someone reported you stating your child was in danger. How would you feel not knowing where your child is going? Who they are going to and will they be comforted at night… I mean, you’ve heard the horrors of foster parents.

    Now image you get a call in the middle of the night asking you to take a child in. This child is terrified, you’re a stranger and this is not their home. Their parents told them not to talk to strangers and yet here you are wanting to comfort them but they (child) won’t allow it. Imagine not receiving information about why this child was placed but knowing you are most likely going to have go meet the birth parents when you have to take the child to visitations (if you agree to do so). Imagine the horror stories you’ve heard about birth parents.

    Each of us have the same fear and we blame each other because of a false narrative. A seed implanted to make us afraid of each other, now granted sometimes those narratives are true, some people will view foster parents as the enemy or birth parents but we’re blaming and judging because of the situation- not knowning that this child was given up willingly and temporarily so their parent(s) could get back on their feet. That is an act of selflessness. Wanting to help the community by caring for someone else’s child is an act of selflessness.

    Don’t judge us foster parents for wanting to be selfless. They aren’t paying us, they are reimbursing us. Many of us really don’t care about the money we care about the children, we care about the family, we care about the community. We just want to help and this is how we do it.

    We are scared too because we don’t want to be your enemy we want to be your ally. That is what foster care is all about.

  3. Avatar Sara Jacina says:

    Our parenting did not cause these behaviors.

    That was my hardest when we first brought our foster children home. Trauma babies act and react differently from other kiddos, often manifesting in behaviors that appear to reflect badly on the (foster) parent’s parenting. I can’t tell you how many times I was on the receiving end of disgusted stares, our out loud, “If that was my child…” or, “My children would never…”.

    Back to the we aren’t saints; we are very firmly human just trying to do the best we can for these kids at this time.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Great addition – it’s so hard to remember when behaviors are manifesting publicly. But yes, their brains and hearts are wired differently and respecting that in those hard moments is much more important than fearing that we may never be able to show our face in Kroger ever again. (chant it to yourself every time!)

      Thanks for reading along and sharing.

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