Five Things You Need To Know About Foster Care

Five Things You Need To Know About Foster Care
May 4, 2015 by Alison Delpercio, Associate Director, HRC Children, Youth & Families Program

1. Foster home placements are temporary and they are absolutely critical to the well-being of children and youth.

Children and youth in foster care have been temporarily placed with families outside of their own home due to experiences of child abuse or neglect. Whenever possible, the goal will be reunification – returning the child to their family of origin. Foster homes provide critically needed safety and stability to young people during very difficult and often traumatic times.

2. Across this country, we need to increase the number of safe, stable, and supportive foster homes… now.

Nearly 400,000 children and youth are in foster care in the U.S. today. This includes youth who live in foster homes as well as those living in group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities and child care institutions. Many states (see examples in ME, MT, CA) across the country do not have enough foster homes for children and youth in care so these young people are forced to be placed in the other less home-like settings.

3. You don’t need to be an experienced parent, perfect, or rich to be a foster parent.

Requirements to become a foster parent vary from state to state, however, a few are constant: you need to be 21 years-old or older; pass a criminal background check; and complete a successful home study and training. Training is part of the process in order to provide foster parent applicants with the knowledge needed to support young people in their care. And it is not necessary to have a large amount of disposable income. In most cases, foster parents receive a set reimbursement to help with expenses while a child is in their home. Most states also provide clothing allowances, day care or day camp funds, too.

4. You don’t need to be straight and cisgender to be a foster parent either.

Increasingly, LGBTQ adults and families are welcoming foster children into their homes. Foster care agencies across the country are working to better serve LGBTQ foster parents. In March of this year, Nebraska suspended its policy barring same-sex couples from becoming foster parents – no state has an explicit ban on LGBT foster parenting.

President Obama recently made it clear that LGBTQ individuals and couples should be considered by agencies searching for qualified foster parents with this unequivocal statement:

“With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure all qualified caregivers have the opportunity to serve as foster or adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”

Especially given the large number of LGBTQ youth in foster care in need of affirming foster placements, LGBTQ adults can play a pivotal role in supporting young people in foster care.

5. Foster parenting is never easy but it could just be the best choice you ever make.

Foster parenting is challenging – it takes patience, empathy, tenacity and love. Some of the challenges are outlined here. Among them are the temporary nature of foster care and the myriad needs foster children and youth present, requiring foster parents to be strong advocates. Two foster dads from Missouri, Derek and Justin, explain, “These kids are dealing with serious trauma and need more than just hugs and toys to make them healthy and able to contribute to society. They need actual parents who can stick with them through whatever they dish out.”

Derek and Justin also want you to know that foster parenting is extremely rewarding. In fact, they feel that “Becoming foster parents has been, without a doubt, one of the best choices we’ve ever made.” Read their story here.

Throughout the month of May, HRC, in collaboration with FosterClub, is celebrating National Foster Care Month by sharing the stories of LGBTQ youth in foster care as well as the families and organizations that work to support them. Check out all National Foster Care Month blog posts here.