So, you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent? Here are 10 things to consider. Read the second part below. Catch up on Part 1. These are listed in no particular order.
There’s a really prevalent myth that people get paid to foster. No. In most jurisdictions, foster carers receive a very small stipend. In North Carolina, it’s considered a reimbursement and isn’t taxable. From my experience, it doesn’t cover everything that you’ll pour in from your personal finances for a child. Bottom line: If you’re already tight just providing the basic needs for your family, this may not be the season for foster care.
Obvious things related to finances are food, furnishings, clothing, toys, school supplies and such. However, you’ll notice other things as well, such as increase in your gas expenses, utility costs (more people equals more power and water usage). Eating out and entertainment expenses will also grow as your family grows.
I’ve had both excellent and terrible employers when it comes to foster care. The biggest thing you’ll need is flexibility. Between placement arrivals, court dates and appointments, you’ll need the ability to take time off when needed (and within reason) to care for the children in your home. Most employers are sadly unfamiliar with foster care, so an open, honest dialogue with supervisors about what this could look like will be tremendously helpful.
If you don’t do so before training class begins, then training will certainly help you set correct expectations. Children come into care not because of what they’ve done, but because of terrible things they’ve experienced. Some come because of abuse, some neglect, a few because of dependency (their caretaker is no longer able to).
There will be a temptation to paint a mental image of a child entering your home, performing at grade level and the star of the T-ball game after just two weeks. That would be wonderful, but it may not happen. The sweet newborn you pick up from the hospital may have a difficult road of withdrawl ahead. You can do it, just be ready. Setting realistic expectations is half the effort.
Glass House Life
Being a foster family means living in a glass house. You have to open your hearts, your finances and even your dresser drawers to inspection. You’ll need to get used to social workers coming in and out of the house, sometimes a lot. You’ll need to be ready to reveal a lot about yourself through the training process and be willing to share in parenting techniques and plans. To be honest, this was the thing I was most concerned about, but in all reality, it’s a non-issue. I’ve even been known to text the worker to just come on in, we’ll be down in a few.
Source of Strength
Finally, consider your inner strength. What is your source of peace and life and purpose? Where do you find a well to pull from on the hard days? You matter also. An empty pot can’t pour out anything. You’ve got to consider how you plan to replenish your soul, your mind, your body and emotions.
For my wife and I, it comes from Jesus. It’s through him that we can also process the highs and lows. We also are intentional about time together and time alone. For me, writing is an outlet. For her, gardening or crafts. You have to make time to refill yourself for the ones you’re caring for.