Most people don't think they have what it takes to be a foster parent. Then again, maybe most people don't want to believe they have what it takes to be a foster parent. I definitely never thought I would ever be a foster mom, but I was and I can tell you it was the single most transformative thing I've ever done. One day, I hope I'll be in a position to do it again. But until then, I'm here to say there are a whole bunch of reasons you'd actually make a damn good foster parent. Yes, you.
We all know the stereotypical foster parent scenario: too many kids packed into not enough space, a dirty house with too little food, while the kids abused and neglected as the foster parents pick up a check from social services. I'm not saying that doesn't happen, because it does, and those stories need and should be told. But I am saying that if normal, caring, kind families open their homes to foster care, that stereotype begins to fade.
I was somewhat of an accidental foster parent. My husband and I took in rescue foster babies shortly after we adopted our daughter. Our agency needed homes and ours was full of baby stuff ready to be shared. I was staying home with our daughter at the time, and I figured I could handle more than one baby in the house. And you know what? I could, and I did. So if you're contemplating becoming a foster parent, but you're a little hesitant, here are a few signs that, yes, you could totally handle it:
You Have Extra Love To Give
This, my friend, is the key requirement. I believe that in order to be a foster parent you need to have extra love to give. You don't have to be a wildly cozy person who loves doting on people, but you have to have room in your heart to love a stranger as best you can for as long as you are able. And the crazy thing is that I think most people actually do have this particular capacity.
You Don't Mind Surprise Guests
Foster kids do tend to show up by, well, surprise. Most of our calls came on Fridays at 4:00 p.m., but I also drove across town to meet our social worker at 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night one time, just two hours after finding out there was a need for a home. I like to call it spontaneity, and we always figured it out as we went along.
You Love Small Humans
You do need to actually enjoy young people, although you do get to set limits on the age you would prefer to foster. I had a ton of baby stuff, so we said we'd take any child younger than our daughter. You could also be totally terrified of babies and tell your social worker you will only take children who are potty trained. You get to have some say in who comes into your home.
You've Got A Little Extra Room
Believe it or not, our home is actually licensed for three children at 800 square feet. My partner and I have two children in it now and a third would make all of us bananas. You don't have to have a mansion, but you do have to have a place for a child to sleep and room for them in your car.
You Have A Support System
Foster care can definitely be emotional and exhausting. Not all foster children are easy 6-month-old babies who sleep through the night because they're used to being ignored for hours on end. You need a support system, whether it's friends or family, who can lend an ear when you need to talk or who might even go through the vetting process so they can babysit once in a while.
You Are Compassionate
The thing about foster care is that you don't actually have to be the judge or the jury. Other people take care of that part. You just get to love and be compassionate to people who aren't terrible people, or at least not intentionally terrible people. You don't have to judge where your foster child came from, you just get to love that foster kid and extend as much grace to the family he or she can no longer be around.
You Are Cool Under Pressure
I once had a (very tiny, very teenage) foster mom accuse me of breaking her baby's arm in the first five minutes of meeting her. The arm was absolutely not broken, but I had to be cool-under-pressure and not to freak the hell out. Someone was accusing me of hurting the child I had so lovingly cared for for the last week, so believe me when I say the aforementioned wasn't easy.
But her words weren't intended to hurt me, they were an indication of how much she was hurting, watching her child be cared for by someone else. At that point, the situation was out of her control, and I can only imagine what she was feeling.
You're Just A Little Bit Brave
The single most common thing people say about foster care is that they couldn't do it because they would get too attached and saying goodbye to a child would be too hard. Ironically, that exact sentiment makes you perfectly suited to be a foster parent. You are supposed to get attached. You are supposed to love that child for as long as you can until that's not your role anymore.
Yes, believe me, it's very hard to walk away from a foster child you've rocked to sleep every night for months and know you will never see them again. It is hard, but it doesn't break you. You, after all, are a brave grown-up. On the other hand, not having a home with love and a place to belong will break a foster child. It is exactly what breaks hundreds of thousands of foster children every day around the country. You're more brave than you give yourself credit for.
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