We spent 9 years in the foster care system, as a care-givers to more than 23 children. Six of those children never left our care and became a permanent part of our family from 2008 until 2012. Our years in the system were trying but also filled with lots of beautiful moments. Thankfully we made it a point to live with as much peace as possible. As a result, we still have relationships with many of the children we fostered, as well as their families.
I won’t say that the journey was easy, because it wasn’t. Any time you care for children who have gone through significant loss, prolonged abuse or neglect, or chronic trauma, it’s going to be difficult. The resulting behaviors from the trauma they’ve experienced can be difficult to handle and can leave you feeling exhausted.
So, to help shed light on the truth, I reached out to several foster parents and asked them to share with me some of the biggest myths they have heard, about foster care, followed by what is actually true.
- Myth: Foster parents just do it for the money.
- Truth: Foster parents love these kids with their whole hearts and would do anything to keep them safe.
Do foster parents receive monetary support for fostering? Yes, they do. But it isn’t much. In fact, it is often not enough to cover the cost of diapers, clothes, formula, not to mention daycare. the per-diem foster parents receive is helpful to care for the child but not something to get rich off of.
- Myth: Fostering teenagers is scary, they will steal from you and hurt your family.
- Truth: Teenagers can be fun and sweet and will steal your heart.
When we fostered teenagers, we had a great experience. Teenagers, in general, receive a bad rap, and are widely misunderstood. Truth is, teenagers are looking for permanency and stability just like younger children.
- Myth: Babies are a clean slate and won’t remember anything that has happened to them.
- Truth: Babies, even ones removed at birth, will have experience trauma.
The age-old myth about babies is that “They’re only babies, they won’t remember anything that happened to them!” WRONG! So, wrong. It’s a proven medical fact that trauma, even experienced pre-natally (including drug or alcohol consumption while pregnant, and mother’s high levels of stress) will leave lasting effects on a baby.
- Myth: Birth parents are horrible people and you shouldn’t love them.
- Truth: Building relationships with birth parents is the gateway to supporting children well.
Sometimes birth parents have experienced as much trauma as the child in care. Birth parents are not horrible people. They are human beings just like you and me. They make mistakes just like you and me. They deserve love just like you and me! Some of our closest relationships today are with our children’s birth families.
- Myth: Children don’t want to be with their birth parents or shouldn’t want to be with them.
- Truth: Children usually want to be with their parents, even if they have experienced hurt or neglect.
This is absolutely one of the biggest myths out there about foster care. Even years after some of our kiddos were in our care through foster care, and now adopted, they still want to be with their birth parents. We do everything in our power to have regular connection and interaction with our children’s first families as a result.
- Myth: Kids are resilient, moving from family to family will not have an effect.
- Truth: Resiliency is built in children through consistency, safety with a trusted caregiver.
Every time a child’s primary caregiver changes, there will be trauma. Every time a child moves to a new home, school, or daycare facility, there is trauma. Over time this trauma has a lasting effect on the development of a child.
- Myth: Foster care isn’t worth it, it’s dark, and there’s no hope for you or your kiddos.
- Truth: There is always of hope, it IS worth it, and there is so much light and goodness in this journey.
My personal belief? You are changing the future when you choose to love children from vulnerable places.
(Big thanks to the McGee, Goerges, Smith, Wallace, and Starkey families for their contribution to this article)
What are some other myths you’ve heard or been told about foster care? Share them with us in the comment section below this post.
Editor’s Note- This post originally appeared in Mike’s column for Disney’s Babble.com