Becoming a foster parent is no small undertaking. There are, however, a number of unhelpful myths that discourage people from pursuing foster parenting. The six myths outlined below should help clarify what it means to be a foster parent, and clear up any misconceptions at the same time.
Unbeknownst to many, becoming licensed to foster parent is a free process. There are no costs to those who are interested in the process. Many agencies, in fact, cover the costs of background checks and work directly with you to become licensed at no financial burden.
Moreover, new foster parents complete a basic training which does not cost foster parents-to-be anything. In many foster care agencies, they provide ongoing and free training to all foster parents. This way, you can stay up-to-date on the yearly training requirements and helpful support.
Also, many foster parents-to-be don’t know that all the physical and medical needs of children in the home are covered. This is often provided through a combination of monthly foster care stipend and state insurance.
Foster care should not be a financial burden to your family, despite the fact that adding a member to your household will increase expenses. This is what the foster care stipend is there for: to cover those extra costs and not as an extra income source. Foster parents must be able to meet their own financial needs for their family outside of the foster care stipend.
Foster parents can be single, married or in a relationship. Moreover, people of all sexual orientation, gender, race, and ethnicities can become foster parents. All of these family makeups can be great and supportive homes for children in foster care.
Your life and personal experiences will all uniquely equip you to parent the children in your care. The most important factor is a foster parent’s ability to meet the needs of the children in their home with the care and support they need. Avoiding the pattern of passing on parental stress to the foster children and therefore causing developmental difficulties is a key issue to stay aware of. This will make the difference above all else, rather than just one view of what the family unit should look like.
The only age requirements for foster parents is that they must be at least twenty-one years old and at least five years older than any child placed in their home. This is the only specific age criteria for be becoming a foster parent.
In addition, a medical professional must sign a form affirming you are physically and emotionally healthy enough to parent. This leaves room for foster parents of a variety of ages to care for children who need it most. More important than anything is for the children in their home to be cared for by adults who are passionate about caring for kids and able to invest the time and energy it takes to support them.
Owning a home is not necessary to be a foster parent. Foster parents can either own their home or rent. The most important thing about their living situation is that the home meets the safety and space requirements put in place by the appropriate state. Some of the basic requirements include:
Many licensing specialists at foster care agencies can answer any specific questions about home details. Moreover, they can often make exceptions and help with the requirements when needed.
Some state codes do specify that at least one parent needs to be at home to meet the needs of a child. The logic is that children may have medical appointments, team meetings, or other emergency needs throughout the day that need attending to.
However, there are options for single foster parents and homes where both parents work outside of the home. In Arizona, there is no requirement to have one stay at home parent. Your licensing agency will work with you to find the support you need. Moreover, they can help you plan for the types of placements you are willing and able to accommodate.
Above all, it’s the most important that a foster parent or another key adult in the family is able to immediately respond to situations that arise. Agencies and training programs can work with your family to make a specific plan for support if the children in your home have needs during the work day.
It’s essential to recognize that you are the expert on your family and should have the ultimate say in who comes to live with you. Any quality foster care agency should work collaboratively with you on this to help you find children that are a good fit for your home. Talking through the needs of the children you feel you can best support in your home should be a central part of your foster care training prep.
Ages, genders, and treatment needs of foster children should all be considered when brought into your home. When a child is identified, you should be able to have a pre-placement visit that gives a better sense of what the child is like. These visits are an opportunity to meet the child and begin to develop a relationship before they move to your home. Moreover, the social support you have is one of the biggest factors in your confidence as a foster parent and will help you stay the course when you have a hard day.
All in all, there are many myths to being a foster parent. But don’t let misconceptions dissuade you from embarking on the journey—make sure you know all the facts before you decide one way or another. For more information on how to get started with foster parenting, reach out to a team member at VQ today.
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