The National Foster Parent Association calls foster parenting a temporary “protective service to children and their families when families can no longer care for their children.” These needs arise for many reasons. Many foster children are orphans, and many have been abandoned by parents that suffer from substance addiction or another mental illness.
Sometimes parents simply cannot care for their children, because of dire financial circumstances, for example. Adoption is complicated and takes time, so foster parents give children a chance to live in a somewhat-normal home environment until a permanent home is found for them.
Becoming a foster parent
Foster parenting is a lot of work. Wisconsin gives a typical example of the requirements for a foster parent. Foster parents must be 21 years old and they must pass a criminal background check. They must be responsible adults. The state will typically inspect a foster parent’s home to make sure it is safe and comfortable before assigning children to the home.
The requirements for being a foster parent in Wisconsin are largely common sense and similar to requirements across the country. A potential parent must have a stable income, for example. Their home must be safe.
The bathrooms must lock, but that lock has to be openable from the outside in an emergency. Each child must have his or her own bed in a room with no adults, except that related young children of the same sex can share a double bed.
There are many benefits to being a foster parent. Of course, many people take joy in helping a young person through a tough time in their life.
Foster parents often adopt their foster children eventually. The state provides some money to help foster parents as well, but it is not much. Wisconsin’s 2018 basic rate of monthly support to the foster parent of a 5 to 11 year old at a high level of care is $431.
Look out for trouble
The sad truth is there are some bad stories out there in the foster-parent world. Take a recent story from Arizona, for example. A young girl in Tucson was taken away from her parents after reports of drug use and domestic violence.
The girl was placed in foster care with a parent that would eventually be convicted for child molestation. That is an extreme example, but the reporter found abuse allegations in 11 of 42 cases examined.
Part of the problem is a huge shortage of willing foster parents, so for most qualified people, the opportunity to be a foster parent is there if they want it.
Agencies coordinate parents and children
As a practical matter, a person that wants to become a foster parent needs to go through some sort of agency. In Wisconsin, they call it a Foster Care Coordinator.
The coordinator will usually help potential parents through the process of getting ready to foster a child.
This typically involves some training in addition to a review of qualifications by the coordinator. Training usually covers issues like culture, child development, abuse, and discipline.