As we wrap up National Foster Care Month, we want to tackle probably the greatest myth of all — who are foster parents? Are they superheroes with superior patience and coping skills? Are they “just in it for the money”? Are they rich or poor? Just who are the foster parents in your neighborhood?

A picture of typical foster parents that might surprise you

There is no one “look” that makes the perfect foster parent. And foster parents across the country represent a wide variety of social, educational, economic, and cultural backgrounds. But who ARE these people that open up their hearts and their homes to children in crisis? Who are these people who love and heal and believe that children deserve the safety net of a home when birth families are struggling?

Look closely; you might be surprised by who you see when you do.

Who Are the Foster Parents In Your Neighborhood?

According to the research, here’s a snapshot of the average foster parent in your neighborhood.

  • Foster parents are primarily Caucasians, closely followed by African-Americans
  • 63% are married
  • 30% are single and female
  • 3% are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT)
  • 50% have more than three children
  • 70% have an education beyond a high school diploma
  • 31% work full-time

foster family at amusement park

How are Foster Parents Doing Financially?

Foster parents are neither rich nor poor. Like most of us, they fall somewhere in the wide range we call “the middle class.” However, typically, they tend to have income levels slightly lower than the general population of households with children.

  • They have a mean income of about $56,000
  • 25% of them have income well above the poverty level
  • Only 15% fall below the poverty level

Foster Parents Can Do Hard Things

While foster parents are not superhuman, they do super things by caring for children from hard places with significant disabilities, trauma histories, or other special needs. Often they care for these kids while the birth families get back on their feet. Not infrequently, though, this care is for the long-term since those who foster are also the ones who typically adopt most of the children who are adopted through foster care.

Can you help a foster child find healing?

It’s also interesting to note that the majority of the foster care within the system is actively being provided by only 20-25% of the foster parents. We need more foster parents! Could one of them be you?

There you have it. The data shows that foster parents are pretty much the average Jo. Or Joe. We look at those numbers and see wide-open descriptions of a potential Mom or Dad. A description that could fit a good many of us.

Those same numbers reveal some glaring needs and gaps in the system. For example, the system needs LGBTQ+ parents who are willing and able to meet the needs of foster care youth who identify as LGBTQ+. Many states need more parents of color or Spanish-speaking foster families.

Do you have what it takes to fill one of those areas of need? Have you considered becoming a foster parent?

Sources: Foster Coalition, Foster Parents: Who Are They?; Children and Youth Services Review, Foster parent self-care: A conceptual model

Image Credit: sean 808080