Thursday, April 29, 2010

Am I too old to be a foster parent? Debunking myths of foster care

I was chatting with a foster parent yesterday, a wonderful woman, who shared her story of how she became a foster parent 18 years ago.

Back then, she had called her local agency to ask if a single woman could become a foster parent, not sure if that was allowed. The agency was happy to inform her she could, and ever since she's been fostering Iowa youth, from teen mothers to infants to kids with special needs.

As we head into May's National Foster Care Month, it's a great time to share a few other myths about foster care.

1. Myth. You have to be married and a homeowner to be a foster parent. Fact. Foster parents come from all walks of life. Some are single, some are renters, some have kids and others don't. And foster parents come from all racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations.

2. Myth. Kids are in foster care because they've done something wrong. Fact. Not true. Kids enter foster care because their biological family is currently unable to provide a safe or nurturing home. The ultimate goal of foster care is for kids to be able to return safely home to their biological families if possible.

3. Myth. Foster families are superheroes. Fact. While we do think our foster families are pretty awesome and extraordinary, the truth is they're ordinary families. And they'll be the first to tell you that! Foster parents are everyday, down-to-earth people who for many different reasons chose to step up for a child who needed a home. So, if you've been thinking you don't have what it takes, you might be surprised!

4. Myth. I'm too old to be a foster parent. Fact. You have to be 21 years old to be a foster parent in Iowa, and after that your age is only a consideration if it affects your ability to care for a specific child. In fact, I heard a nice story yesterday about a 68-year-old woman who is fostering several teenage boys. Older foster parents can be great - often, they have previous parenting experience or can share a wealth of wisdom and life experiences with youth.

5. Myth. Once I become a foster parent, I'm on my own. Fact. As child welfare has evolved, so has support for families. In Iowa, foster parents now have a really good support network with every foster family being assigned their own support specialist. Check out more about support here.

What are some myths you've heard about foster care? Or things that have surprised you? We'd love to hear.


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