By Steven Olender
May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize that we each can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.
In the face of something as daunting as foster care, it can be easy to come up with reasons why we can’t be a foster parent or why we shouldn’t. However, with a shortage of foster parents in Austin, it’s important that more people step up to say “I can.” We asked four of our Child Advocacy Specialists, Tess Gillespie, Will Vese, Rushmi Karim-Paris and Dana Narveson, to help us debunk six of the most common “I can’ts” about foster parenting. Here are their responses:
I’m too old to be a foster parent.
“There is no age limit on being a foster parent, as long as you are willing to care for a child, as long as you are willing to open up your home and your life. Your age does not matter. And if you happen to be retired, that could be valuable because you could really devote a lot of one-on-one time to the child instead of having to balance work and family life.” – Rushmi
“Some of the best foster parents we have are older. They have the experience. They understand their development into adulthood.” – Tess
“Being a foster parent isn’t contingent on your age. It’s contingent upon your willingness and ability to meet the needs of a child.” – Will
I can’t be a foster parent. I’m single
“Whether you are single or part of a couple doesn’t matter. If you are a person who has the capability to love and to support and to be there for another human being. That’s what kids in foster care need, not necessarily to be part of a nuclear family.” – Dana
“Sometimes it’s an easier dynamic to do it yourself. It simplifies things. You don’t have to worry about how your partner is bonding with the child and it can be a more straightforward interaction. I have a single foster parent on one of my cases and she is one of the most incredible placements I’ve ever seen. It’s just her and she really takes that ownership.” – Tess
I don’t make enough money to be a foster parent. I don’t even own my home.
“Owning your home does not matter. Any safe, stable and consistent place is perfectly acceptable. Not to mention the fact that there are a thousand free things you can do in this city.” – Dana
“Also, if you are fostering a child through CPS, the child already has Medicaid, so you don’t have to worry about insurance or healthcare expenses either.” – Rushmi
Foster children are so emotionally damaged by what they’ve been through. I couldn’t handle a kid with trauma.
“You hear the phrase ‘children are resilient’ and that’s true. Just because they’ve been through trauma doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be loved and cared for and given a second chance at a loving caregiver. Some of the most incredible children I’ve met have been through almost insurmountable trauma. Yes, it’s an extra layer, but it’s worth it.” – Tess
“Although children from hard places do need to be handled in an extremely nurturing and loving manner, they, like all children, respond well to simple care, love, structure and consistency. As long as you are willing to put in that effort to care for and love them, they will respond.” – Dana
I work full time. I can’t be a foster parent.
“That’s just not true. We see foster parents that work full time. There are resources for them to help with child care and everything else they need to provide a home for their child, despite them working full time.” – Will
“There are a lot of employers that are really gracious with families because they are doing something so wonderful. I think it’s great when a foster parent can work full time.” – Tess
I’ve never been a parent. I can’t be a foster parent.
“Not true. You not being a parent before doesn’t mean you don’t have a kind heart, you don’t have love to give, you don’t have the means to provide a good life. All of that isn’t dependent on having the experience of having your own child.” – Will
“These kids, more than anything, need that stable, caring adult who is able to provide them with security and nurturing.” – Rushmi
“Nobody comes into parenthood 110% prepared. It’s trial and error. It’s loving that child unconditionally. It’s a learning experience and as long as you are open and willing and understand that you are not going to be perfect, as long as you provide a supportive, loving home, you can easily give a child what they need.” – Tess
“Sometimes not having parental experience is going to be the absolute best thing because children in foster care don’t always need standard parenting. I’ve found many people who haven’t been parents before to be more creative and more spontaneous, more willing to try new things with kids and to work with them. That’s really a great thing for a kid in foster care.” – Dana
Learn more about becoming a foster parent at the Department of Family & Protective Services Texas Adoption Resource Exchange.
May Advocacy 2017