Childrearing

10 Reasons You Would Make A Terrible Foster Parent

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foster mother and foster childIt took over 16 people to raise me, when you count my houseparents and their relief counterparts. Not all of these people were perfect, and some were downright douchecanoes, but the vast majority of these people were absolutely amazing, considering the fact that from ages six to 18 I went through all manner of ridiculous phases, including an embarrassing one with cornrows and a slight obsession with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and unpleasant one where I discovered sneering and my middle finger.

My parents were good people. It’s because of them that I hope to one day also care for kids in my home, whether as a houseparent or as a foster parent.

I know a few people who’ve expressed this same desire. Some have great reasons, some have really misguided ones. There’s also those people who have supremely shitty reasons for wanting to foster, and will undoubtedly make some poor kid miserable one day. Reasons like these ones.

10. You want extra income.

Oh, man. Setting aside how gross it is to get into something like foster care for the money, if this is your reason for doing it I am sorry to tell you that you are in for a massive disappointment. Reimbursement funds and stipends are very likely to be far from the fat stacks you’re envisioning. You’ll probably end up spending it all on what your placement needs, plus a little of your own. Only deluded people do this for the money.

9. You want to “save” a child.

Yikes. I’m not really sure how to address this except to say that you are unlikely to “save” anyone. Foster kids aren’t endangered pandas. Of course, there’s always a chance that you’ll make a difference in someone’s life, maybe even a very substantial impact. But if you need this or crave this kind of self-satisfaction please feel free to go away and stay there

8. You expect your kids to be grateful that you swept in and fixed everything.

Part two of the above. I have a biological child who lives a charmed life and doesn’t even gush gratefully that I feed her and wash her clothing, because she has a serious personality disorder called being a fucking child. You might get a thank you, you might not. 10-year-old me wasn’t particularly grateful, and yet, with all of this hindsight, 28-year-old me is. I’m glad my houseparents didn’t make my gratitude a contingency for decent care. If you need constant compliments, validation, and kowtowing you are doing it wrong.

7. You are hoping to choose from a buffet of needy children.

You have a lot of say over what child is placed in your home. But you won’t find a catalog of blondes to pick from or a “joy book” of athletically inclined kids. Please don’t “order” the kids that you think will “fit in” aesthetically (or stand out, if you REALLY need people to know they’re not yours) because it’s gross and your gross and it’s just really gross.

6. You expect every one of your friends and family to be completely and immediately supportive.

Nooooooooooope. This doesn’t make you a bad person, just a naive one.

5. You want a “practice kid”.

Ugh. Ugh, forever. I’m not talking about people who want to foster to see if they have the stuff to adopt. I’m talking about the people who can have kids but can’t decide if they want some, so they go grab one for a few months to make a decision before tossing them back. This is ugly, and also needlessly labor-intensive. Save time and money with a puppy or fern.

4. You’re hoping to “civilize” a child.

If you have some kind of Dickensian fantasy going on, let me go ahead and dispel that for you. Foster kids come from all walks of life, and like a lot of kids, they give almost no fucks about The Grapes of Wrath or any number of very long classical music movements. Also, patronizing much?

3. You want to proselytize.

Let me tread carefully here, so as not to be disrespectful. Please do not pursue placements just so that you can convert kids to your religion, especially if they already practice their own. Just…don’t, please.

2. You’re lonely.

The fact is, this is selfish as hell. If it’s a bad reason to become a parent, it’s a bad reason to become a foster parent. Just keep that in mind.

1. You expect perfection.

Would you expect perfection of your own kids? No? Then let’s ease up a little. Prepare for rough roads (though that’s not a foregone conclusion) and false starts. Prepare for angry kids and rebellious teenagers and toddlers who act surprisingly like other toddlers. There isn’t a perfect child, and you won’t be raising one, biologically or not so put this one in a bubble and blow it away.

 (Image: Rob Marmion/Shutterstock)