Time to Foster Change

Shortage of Foster Families

The majority of foster parents are motivated by a heartfelt purpose to give a traumatized child a safe and nurturing environment in which to thrive. Many choose to do this because it’s a heart-warming and worthy experience to make such a difference in a child’s life.  A foster family knowingly becomes the caregiver, provider, nurturer, and additional love source for their foster child. The unconditional love, concern, protection and advocacy are given without restriction. We put our heart, soul and pocketbook into these kids because we care. Most foster parents can’t help but to empathize with their foster child’s plight and come to love them as their own. So why are so many foster families choosing not to renew their foster care licenses? Why, after making such an impact on a young person’s life, would any one wish to forego this life-changing experience? My own encounters with varying child welfare agencies have led me to a few conclusions.

First and foremost, the child welfare system shares a commonality with most other areas of legal conventionalism…It can be intimidating to those who do not understand it. It can be quite difficult to question or fight back against the autocratic control and robotic decisions made by a state foster care agency. One would think the opinions and perspectives of the foster parent would be taken into account, they are after all, with this child every day. Foster parents possess a tremendous amount of helpful knowledge and could make a significant impact in the courtroom on behalf of their foster child. However, most are forced to sit quietly on a court bench wondering how any part of this process resonates in the best interest of this child. A foster parent possesses a whole lot of insight and their observations could be life changing. So, why are they ignored? Why wouldn’t the system be grateful and open to receive information that may be pertinent to the child’s well-being? My own experience has shown it’s mainly due to the disruption in the flow of the child’s case file. A foster parent’s assessment of the facts usually paints a picture that is in sharp contrast to what the state appointed employees (case workers, therapists, attorneys, etc.) have come to conclude about the child. A foster parent’s objection or questioning of their findings and conclusions is very much frowned upon and not welcomed input. It is such an awful feeling to witness the fate of an innocent child heading down a wrong path and feeling absolutely helpless. The whole undertaking can be quite frustrating and heartbreaking. It appeared to me that the greatest amount of importance was placed on the ultimate ability to close a child’s case file within the timeframe required by statute. Once you realize and witness firsthand how a child is reduced to a case file it becomes very hard to repeat the process.

The second cause for a drop in foster families is simply financial. Our child welfare systems and the governments that support them need to recognise that this act of love is an expensive undertaking for most. The allotted monthly board payment offered by most states doesn’t even come close to supporting the needs of these children. The majority of us are not just place holders looking to collect a minor token of financial reimbursement. We do this to make a difference. But,the financial assistance offered is a joke. We are left with no option other than to use our own funds to take proper care of these children. Many will give willingly, but have no doubt, we also are quite aware that the system is taking full advantage of the situation.

It might also behoove any individual working within the system to kindly remember that honesty and respect would be most welcome. Foster parents do realize you have a job to do, but please be cognizant of the fact that we do not work for you. We are not invisible placeholders who enjoy being treated as an employee. The child you place in our home becomes a member of our family. Whether they stay a week or a year be assured that they will mean more to us than a case file needing to be closed. So, please appreciate the fact that we are not robots, emotions are involved. We do not exist to fulfill a service for you. We accept and love these children because we wish to be difference makers for them.