Often, as families consider fostering, they are plagued with various fears and hesitations. Here, we address some of the most common. As you read, we pray that fear would have no place in your hearts and that only truth would guide your decisions.
1. I would never be able to let them go...
This fear is communicated in many ways. “It would break my heart to let them leave,” “I could never give them back,” or “How do you keep yourself from falling in love with each child?”
For those who choose to foster, the most important truth to recognize is this: fostering is not about your heart. Fostering is about the children’s hearts.
Successful foster families are not those who can handle the pain. They are people who choose to let their hearts be broken over and over again, with the hope and belief that their heartbreak is a small price to pay for a child knowing love and a family experiencing healing.
The secret is not to avoid becoming attached. This would be an extreme disservice to the child. The secret is loving every child with your whole heart as if they are your own… with the knowledge and perspective that they are not. Fostering means soothing away bad dreams, bandaging scraped knees, and cheering on first steps because the brokenness you will experience when they leave means they had a family to love them through those crucial moments in life.
The children you welcome into your home have experienced pain and loss to extremes that most of us cannot imagine. By taking them in and swallowing your own pain, you have the opportunity to ease the burdens that no child should ever carry.
With this outward-focused mindset, you can invest not only in the children but also in their families. You can play a crucial role in their restoration. Then, when the child goes home, you are part of their community – a support person, a babysitter, a friend. Developing trust and building bridges means that you may have the opportunity to continue pouring into these children long after they leave your home.
So, will it hurt? Yes. Can your heart handle it? Not without breaking. But when you let your heart be shattered into pieces, you may find it easier to give away.
Do not fear the pain of loving too deeply. Instead, consider what it means for these children if you will not take the risk of loving them at all.
2. I am not qualified...
The true qualifications to become a foster family are fewer than the qualifications necessary to become a parent, and the resources and guidance offered is substantial.
Before ever taking a placement, all foster parents complete 27 hours of pre-service training presented by a qualified trainer who is present and prepared to answer questions throughout the process.
Upon approval of a home, Family for Life staff offer 24/7 support. If you need someone to help brainstorm ideas, attend a DHS meeting or court hearing, answer questions, or help handle an emergency, we will be there.
Online sites offer trainings for countless topics, problems, and questions to provide foster families with information they never knew they needed. Moreover, support groups provide an environment of camaraderie to gain knowledge and wisdom from other families and their experiences, as well as helping build a supportive community of like-minded individuals.
These children and families do not need people who feel qualified; they need people who are willing.
3. My life is too busy...
We all make time for the things we value and believe are important.
4. I am afraid fostering would have a negative impact on my own children...
It is true that choosing to foster will affect your biological children. They will have to share their bedroom and their toys and their favorite cup and their spot on Dad’s lap when it is time to read a book. They will be exposed to babies crying in the night and teenage drama and poor manners and foul language. They may sometimes ask, “Why?” and say, “I don’t want to.” They will make new best friends and cry themselves to sleep when their new friends leave.
Through the arguments and giggles and tears and hugs, they will learn that life is not all about them. They will learn to love unconditionally, regardless of the way a person looks or talks or dresses or acts. They will learn that some people make bad choices, but that does not make them bad people. They will learn to give selflessly and share joyfully. They will learn they are blessed in more ways than they knew, which means they can and should explore new ways to bless others.
There may be times when it hurts and when it is hard and when they do not want to anymore, but you will anyway. Because, as parents, the best way to teach your children to follow Jesus is to show them. When you make what God wants from you a higher priority than what your children want from you, their respect for you will grow immensely.
Do not be afraid that fostering might change your children. Be thankful knowing it will.
5. I cannot afford to care for extra children...
The state provides foster families with a monthly reimbursement per child placed in the home to cover the cost of care. This reimbursement provides for the child’s necessities, including clothing, school supplies, birthday and holiday gifts, and more. Mileage reimbursements for driving the child to visitation or therapy appointments are also provided in specific circumstances.
All children in foster care qualify for free breakfasts and lunches in all Oklahoma public schools. Additionally, children under age 5 qualify for Women, Infants and Children Food & Nutrition Services (WIC). WIC cards cover the cost of baby formula, milk, and various food items.
Multiple resource centers in the Tulsa area offer free clothing, toys, bedding, car seats, school supplies, and other items to support foster families in meeting the needs of children of all ages.
When you foster, the burden of care does not fall to you alone.
6. My house does not have room...
To be approved to foster, a family does not need a large house with multiple bedrooms. Up to three children (foster or biological) of like-gender may sleep in separate beds in a shared bedroom. Infants up to 12 months old may sleep in their own bed in the foster parents’ room.
That “not big enough” house could easily become the safest home a child has ever known.
7. I am afraid I would not have time to invest in my own family...
Fostering children is a team effort, and the experience can grow a family closer or push them apart. Here at Family for Life, we are committed to supporting your family’s well-being by encouraging you to have intentional time together. Respite care, where a child may visit another approved home for up to two weeks, is an effective way to refocus and strengthen your family while the children placed with you enjoy their own vacation. Additionally, we help you identify and utilize your own alternate caregivers, individuals who can take care of your foster children while you make an emergency room visit, enjoy a date night with your spouse, or anything in between.
Our Family Support Specialist is also available to share creative ideas for loving and prioritizing each member of your family, biological and foster alike, even when life gets crazy.
You may come to appreciate your own family more deeply as you bring other children in to receive love in your home.
8. I am afraid we will not be able to adopt any of the children placed with us...
The reality is that you may foster 20 children and never have one child with the goal of adoption. Choosing to foster means being an active member of a team pursuing reunification with biological parents in the majority of cases.
Yes, there are many wonderful stories of families adopting children out of foster care, and those are joyful days filled with cute signs and answered prayers. However, in order for a child to become “adoptable” and to gain a new family, that means something tragic has taken place and they have lost their birth family.
The day may come when you have a child placed with you that will need a forever home; but if that is your main goal, you will likely find yourself frustrated and heartbroken. However, if you are willing to be patient and foster each child with the intent to reunify, the children you bless and the journey you experience will be worth the risk.