Anytime someone finds out you’re a foster parent, you will usually get one of the following responses: “you’re a saint” or “you’re nuts.” Well, maybe you are a little of both.

Why do foster parents foster? Is it because they are super patient, inherently more saintly, or because they possess something that others don’t? People become foster parents and continue to foster for many reasons, but I think most of the time, their “why” can be summarized into these general reasons.

Loving Kids is Their Superpower

Universally, most of the foster parents I know are good at loving kids. I don’t mean to say that they are saints who never lose their temper when faced with bad behavior. It does mean that they are more willing to see the reason behind the behavior, …or at least try to view it.

–They are willing to have their lives disrupted to love and care for another child.

–They are willing to learn about the impact of trauma on a child. Then they try to apply this knowledge to how they parent.

–They genuinely love kids, even messy, complicated kids.

Remember, there’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid!

They Have the Room and Can Make the Time

Over and over again, when asked why they are foster parent, I hear some version of “well, we had the room for another child, so why not.” Of course, in reality, fostering is far more complicated and involved than only having the room, but that is often a starting place. I think the key is to have space not just in your house or apartment. It’s also about making room in your heart and your life for another person. A person who will demand a lot of your energy and time.

I suspect that the majority of foster parents did not understand at the beginning how time-consuming fostering would be. Fostering involves so much more than taking in another child to live in your house.

–There are appointments: doctors, dentist, mental health therapist, occupational therapist, tutoring, educational testing, and on and on.

–There are visitations: parents (often one at a time), siblings (often one at a time), grandparents (often numerous sets), and prospective adoptive parents.

–There are meetings and appearances: caseworkers, special education, guardian ad litem, court appearances, etc.

What sets foster parents apart is their willingness to make the time for these needs. It is not that they start the process with lots of extra time on their hands. Quite the contrary; most foster parents had busy, active lives before they ever considered fostering. The difference is that they are willing – for the sake of this child – to carve out the time to parent him fully. And since there are only 24 hours in a day, making this time usually means sacrificing something else.

Foster parents may not fix gourmet (or even home-cooked) meals most nights. They probably won’t have the latest looks in home decorating. And I guarantee they have a list of home improvement projects a mile long, just waiting until they can find the time to tackle them.

But they choose to spend their time on this child because she matters.

kids of all ages standing in a line side by side
Universally, most of the foster parents I know are good at loving kids.

They Believe That These are OUR Kids

Why do foster parents foster? Because someone has to. Period. These children are our children. They are our future and our present. They and their families are in a crisis and need a soft place to land while they figure things out. Someone has to do it, and foster parents step up.

And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Image credit: Glenn Beltz; Tom Hart