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No. 64 (Updated FEB-27-2011)

What does the word "foster" mean? It means to help someone (or something) grow and develop. To foster also means to take care of someone's needs.  A foster family is a family who opens up their homes to children who have to be separated from their birth families.  It is the foster family's job to help their foster child grow and develop within a loving, nurturing environment.

Not everyone is cut out to be a foster parent. The state has to do background checks on families that want to become a foster family as well as inspect their home. If nothing is found in the past of the family, and the state is satisfied that the child will be safe, then the family goes through a series of classes to be trained to become a foster family.

There are many situations when a child's mom or dad will be physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive to their child. When that happens, the state has to step in and investigate the situation and determine whether or not the child can stay in that home. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to remove the child from the home and place them in a foster home where they will be safe. Sometimes the child will have to stay with the new family for a few days, or sometimes it may be a few weeks, or even a few years.  When a child's mom or dad can't take care of their child, it becomes very important that someone is available to step in and take the place of the child's parents in the day-to-day care of the child.  This is not always as easy as some might think.  Fostering a child can definitely be a challenge, as well as extremely rewarding!

When a child has to be taken from their home and placed into another home, the child is often very scared and confused. It is very difficult for the child to think about not living with their parent(s). Even if the child was being abused, they often do not want to be taken away from the home that they have grown up in. Foster parents have to be kind, patient, and loving people in order to be able to meet the various needs that the foster child is going to need. Foster parents need to be able to make the child feel safe and loved.

A foster child will have many challenges to face when moving to a different home. There will be new rules to get used to and new people who live in the home. There will probably also be a new school to go to. But if this child feels loved and accepted into the foster home, the child may also feel some relief at living in a calmer more normal environment than what they were used to.

A child who has been moved from their home into a foster home can feel many mixed emotions. They can feel safe and happy that their foster family is loving and nurturing, but at the same time they may feel sad and worried about their real mom or dad. They worry about what is going to happen next and may even go through periods where they are very angry at everyone over the whole situation. The foster family has to be prepared to deal with the possibility of a lot of additional stress due to the foster child's anxieties about his or her situation.

Each child that is put into foster care will be assigned a caseworker. The caseworker's job is to decide what needs to be done to help get the parent(s) ready to have the child come back home. Everything is done to help the family be reunited, but sometimes that just isn't possible. In those cases, the child may remain in foster care, or go to live with a relative, or eventually may even be adopted by the foster family, relatives, or another family interested in adopting a child.

Between the time a child is first placed in foster care up until the time permanency is reached it is imperative for the well being of the child that he or she has a home in which to stay where they will be loved, sheltered, nurtured, and kept safe. The trauma of being removed from their biological family will forever leave scars on these kids, but if their experience in foster care is positive, the chance that they will be able to overcome their past as they grow older is greatly increased. It is important that more good foster homes are made available for the many children that currently are, and for those that will soon be, entering the foster care stystem.

There is a shortage of good foster homes all across the United States.  More families are needed to step in and help take care of the hundereds of children who need to be removed from their own homes so they can be kept safe from the abuse they have been enduring. 

Are YOU up to the challenge?

Diane T. Foster

For additional information see other Facts for Families:
#09 Child Sexual Abuse
#05 Child Abuse-The Hidden Bruises
#15 The Adopted Child, and
#08 Children and Grief.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).

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