The need for foster caregivers is on the rise in the United States; if you've ever consider fostering, now would be an ideal time. In honor of National Adoption Month, here's a list of common aspects to consider regarding foster care.
1. Foster Care is Considered a Temporary Solution
Legally, foster care is in place to care for children whose parents need assistance for any number of reasons. Becoming a foster parent means that you accept responsibility for a child or children temporarily as one or both of their parents work to fulfill guidelines specific to them. While adoption may ultimately become possible, it is not the goal of foster care. The primarily goal of foster care is reunification with the parent.
2. Hundreds of Thousands of Children are in Foster Care
Many children need foster caregivers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' report, the total number of children in the American foster care system increased in the fourth year in a row. On average at any given time over 400,000 children need homes. The report cites a rise in parental drug abuse for the continuing increase of children entering the foster care system.
Related: A State by State Guide to Foster Care Resources
3. You Should Have a Support System in Place
Raising any child may be stressful, but opening your home to a child who lost or is temporarily separated from their parent may be challenging. While love may conquer all, it may be an uphill battle during the initial adjustment periods. Many foster care placement agencies offer support groups, and these groups can offer value tools to you as a new foster parent. Look into support groups available in your area to ensure you have a village in place before you begin this new journey.
4. The Whole Family Matters
Is everyone in your family onboard? If the dynamic of the family is about to shift, what mechanisms are in place to accommodate shifting spaces and shifting schedules? Who will be responsible for new duties such as making court dates or meeting with the social worker for in-home visits and check ins?
Related: Ask the Expert: Why Become a Foster Parent?
5. Different States Having Different Requirements
While age requirements vary state to state for foster care parents, many states require a family to be licensed prior to beginning to care for a child. Expect in-home visitations as well as requests for pet vaccinations. Ample room is also a requirement, as may be a specific amount of bathrooms per people in the home. Couples or single adults may apply; however in five states (Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, North Dakota, Utah) the couple must present a legal certificate of marriage before being a granted a license. See a full list of state by state requirements here.
6. Positive Energy
Foster care requires you to open your home and love a child that may have faced some scary moments. You may need patience and encouragement to make your foster child feel safe. Like all parents, you'll likely make mistakes and learn from them.
Thousands of children wait for homes to help them navigate through life. If you're interested, reach out to your local foster care agency and inquire about the next informational session. Plan on attending and bring something to write with; you'll likely take a lot of notes!