The foster care system is designed to provide temporary support to children who cannot have their needs met in their current living environment. As such, it is relevant in conversations about a host of dehumanizing issues, ranging from abortion to domestic abuse to inescapable poverty. But misconceptions about the system abound. Here are seven common myths, as well as the truth that combats them.
You have to be a homeowner to be a foster parent.
You do not need to own your home in order to be eligible as a foster parent. You must be able to provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for the child, but that can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Whether you are in an apartment or a house, a rental or a home you own, you may be eligible to foster children.
You have to be a stay-at-home parent to foster.
Depending on the age of the child, daycare or after-school programs can be viable options for foster children in the home of a working parent(s). Depending on the legislation in your particular area, you may be responsible for the cost of the childcare, or you may be able to pursue reimbursement.
You must have parenting experience to foster.
Previous childcare experience is not required to be a successful foster parent. Whether you work directly with the state or with a private foster care agency, you will have access to resources such as training and classes. These sessions will prepare you to care for a child and familiarize you with the unique needs of a foster child.
Only a heterosexual married couple can foster children.
Your orientation and relationship status do not disqualify you from foster care eligibility. Single people, as well as people who are in relationships that do not fit the traditional cisgender, heteronormative framework, can be successful foster parents. There are other requirements, such as minimum age and background checks, that do influence eligibility.
You have to provide insurance for the children that you foster.
Medicaid coverage for foster children is provided by the government until they turn 26.
Most foster kids are teenagers.
The median age of a foster child is 8 years old. Only 38% of the children in foster care are teenagers, which means that 62% of foster kids are under the age of 10.
All foster kids are “damaged goods”—they’ve been broken beyond repair by trauma.
There are countless reasons why children may be placed in foster care. While many of them have experienced trauma, that does not make them hopeless or damaged beyond repair. Human beings are dynamic, resilient, and capable; foster children are no different. The safety of living in a stable environment can be very beneficial for anyone of any age who has been through trauma. Foster care can provide such an environment and serve as the groundwork for healing.
The foster care system as it stands today is not perfect. But in order to advocate for effective change, we must first have an understanding of what it is and what purpose it serves. For more information, check out https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/foster-care/.