After dispelling some common myths about foster care, get the facts here!
A lot of families don’t know there are ways to meet children in foster care and build relationships before committing. There are many different foster youth mentorship programs. There are programs for sports, music, academic tutoring, court appointed advocates, and family mentoring. Prospective parents thinking about fostering or adoption can ask their social worker to help them find a child who may be the right fit for their family. Parents can travel to meet children and get to know them before formal paperwork is filed.
Unlike some private adoptions, or international adoptions, kids in foster care not only have medical records, they have reports on their education, progressing developmental markers, therapeutic evaluations, and personal goals. Post-adoption services are often available to support any concerns. Parents often focus on the “bad” of the records: therapy and learning differences. They fail to see the good of them! Having detailed records means that foster children are often better evaluated, understood, and offered resources that some biological children may not receive. Children in foster care have an entire history and developed plan in place for them to help them succeed.
This is one of the things that parents find most difficult, when it should be a source of great comfort! Children who have their own interests and hobbies pair well with families who share those interests and hobbies. This helps parents and social workers find compatible matches. It also gives parents a launching point when talking to children and trying to get to know them by participating, supporting, or encouraging them in those pursuits. Doing activities with a child is one of the fastest ways to bond and build trust. Meeting a kid over dinner can feel like a job interview. Playing a sport, taking a class, or doing an activity together can make conversation fun and natural.
Profiles on kids in foster care are helpful for two reasons. First, a profile can introduce prospective parents to the possibility of meeting and adopting a child. Photos can also help a family discover a child who isn't in the same area (across state lines). Also, practically, profiles are a great way for a family to understand what needs a child may have before connecting with them. Foster care allows parents to be selective about expanding their family to ensure they have the skills to be the best parent to the child matched with them. Profiles of adoptable children are often open for parents to view on the Internet. This means parents can look at children in different states, explore sibling sets, and search by age and location. For state by state photo listings, see AdoptUsKids.
At National Council For Adoption, our mission is to be “passionately committed to the belief that every child deserves to thrive in a nurturing, permanent family.” Unfortunately, many teens in foster care may never be adopted due to no fault of their own. Foster youth who age out of the system without having any guardianship or adoption in place are at high risk of homelessness; 14% of males, and 10% of females report being homeless at least once since they were "emancipated" and face persistent homelessness because they do not have a family to fall back on. Additionally, foster youth are at higher risk for substance use and abuse and higher risk for preventable diseases or conditions (such as diabetes) because they have never developed strong eating habits. Foster youth who have "aged out" also lack critical mental health services to help cope with past trauma and new struggles with adulthood. And over 50% of foster youth who have aged out have said they lack the education or skill sets to find employment beyond menial or minimum wage jobs.* If a foster youth beats the odds and pursues higher education, there are practical things to think about; how can they afford books and tuition? Where will they go for the holidays? How will they adapt to caring for themselves without adult support? Furthermore, basic life skills most children learn from their parents are never taught to foster youth. Mentoring programs and social workers attempt to fill the gaps, but can only go so far.
We hope these foster care truths will help you better understand foster care and might encourage more people to consider adoption from foster care. Maybe even you!