8 Common Myths About Foster Care and Adoption
Myths about Becoming a Foster Care Parent
The latest Virginia Department of Social Services data indicates that more than 5,000 children are in foster care as of June 2022. These children were placed in care due to their birth parents or birth family being unable to care for them. Many foster youths need your help and a loving family to call their own.
However, certain myths may prevent families from fostering or adopting children in need. Your children and families would also benefit from understanding what is a myth and what are facts in foster care.
We're here to debunk those common foster care myths. Find out the truth and learn how to make a difference in the child welfare system.
Do I have to be married?
Myth: Single parents, unmarried partners, and same-sex couples can't become foster parents or adoptive families.
Fact: There aren't any marital requirements for fostering a child.
There is a requirement to provide a stable and livable income. You also need the time and desire to care for a child. It might be easier for a couple to foster due to combined incomes and more time between them. However, being single isn't a barrier to fostering, and we have amazing single parents that work with our kids.
There aren't any restrictions that state only heterosexual couples can become foster care parents. Foster parents can be married, divorced, separated, cohabiting, partners, and so on. Same-sex couples are more than welcome to apply, with 30% of foster kids seeing themselves as LGBTQ community member.
Do I need to own my home?
Myth: I need to own my home to provide a loving and safe foster home.
Fact: Homeownership isn't a barrier to becoming a foster family.
You can foster a child if you rent or live in a family house with extended family members. However, all household members must pass background checks. That said, you must have enough room in the home for a foster child. They can share a room with another child of the same sex, but they must have their own bed.
Am I too old to foster a child?
Myth: Only young people can foster or adopt children, whereas older adults would be turned away.
Fact: There aren't any rules about how old is "too old" to foster or adopt a child in the foster care system.
You must be 18 years old to foster a child in Virginia, but many agencies have their age restrictions. Regardless of age, you could be a foster parent if you have the time and energy to care for a child, maintain a safe and loving home, and commit to the ongoing training required.
Do I have to be a stay-at-home parent?
Myth: I have to be a stay-at-home parent to become a foster parent.
Fact: You don't have to become a stay-at-home mom or dad to foster or adopt a child. You can also make arrangements for after-school care or daycare.
The average age of children waiting for adoption in foster care is eight years old. Most are school-aged children that spend their days in class. Working outside the home allows many parents to maintain a typical work schedule.
It helps to have a family member, spouse, or partner around to help pick up and drop off the child and take them to mental health appointments and after-school activities such as visiting biological parents or other family services. However, you don't have to give up your career to care for a child.
You can learn more about financial considerations in our recent blog post.
Do I have a choice for which child I foster?
Myth: I won't have a say in which child I will be able to return home with.
Fact: The family has a significant voice regarding who they feel best fits their family.
The whole goal of the foster care system is to find the right family for the child. Many kids will not be referred to you as the agency feels you will not be the best fit for the child.
When you enter the child welfare services arena, you will learn a lot about children's needs and what you can handle and can not. The United States Department of Social Services assesses the child's needs and works toward finding the right family home for the best fit possible.
If your agency offers you a child to foster, they should be confident you will be successful. But you will always have the last word, and saying 'no' to a placement will always be okay.
For instance, maybe you feel you're not ready to care for an older child yet and would prefer to be matched with a younger one. If that's the case, we recommend reading this content on fostering teens.
Do I need parenting experience to foster?
Myth: I won't be able to become a foster parent because I don't have any parenting experience.
Fact: While having some parenting knowledge can help, fostering and adoption are unique experiences. You can be an excellent foster parent if you're loving and responsible.
Remember, every parent starts somewhere, and much of what you need to learn will come with experience. One of the essential features of a foster parent is a willingness to learn and adapt.
That said, part of the process is attending training and classes to learn more about the process and how to become a foster parent. The training sessions are free, and you'll learn valuable information you can use to become a better foster parent and build a loving foster home.
Will my past conviction prevent me from being eligible to foster?
Myth: My past conviction will prevent me from becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent.
Fact: It depends on the nature of the crime, the length of time that has passed, and the severity. It also depends on whether a child was involved in the offense.
Part of the process is undergoing a background check. However, even with a criminal record, you may still be able to foster a child. Although this is only a guide, you can learn more about convictions and fostering children.
It's a problem if I get too attached to my foster child.
Myth: Getting attached to a foster child would be too difficult, so I shouldn't become a foster parent at all.
Fact: The most essential gift foster care parents can give a child is love, and getting attached is a sign you want to see them grow and thrive.
When a child enters foster care, they need all the love you can give. Seeing a child move on can be challenging, but you'll always know that you gave them something special while they lived with your family. You may have provided what they need to heal and regain trust in a family again.
Your Child Placing Agency will train you to look after yourself in this transition, but you are the adult and giving your love and strength to a child a true gift in their lives.
Become a Foster Care Parent
We hope that debunking these common myths has taught you more about foster care so you can spread the word!
At FosterVA, we want to educate potential foster families on their options and ways they can help. If you want to become a foster care parent, you can take the next step today by filling out this form. Our Parent Advocate will contact you soon and discuss the process.