Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions

The moment someone mentions foster care we instantly go to our memory bank of stories and experiences, news articles and investigative reports. Like most adults, you and I have heard the long and short tales of foster care—the stories that inspire and encourage us, as well as the stories that inform and urge us to act. Whether your memory is filled with first-hand experience, or through your support of a family member or friend who has fostered a child, we’d like to address common foster care myths and misconceptions.

Although well-known, foster care is not often deeply understood, and the common misconceptions and myths can result in a child never finding a loving, forever home.

13 Common Foster Care Myths and Misconceptions Debunked

MISCONCEPTION: Fostering is a financial strain.

Foster parents receive monthly stipends to cover the essential needs of the foster child, including food and clothing.

Fostering a child is not a greater financial burden on a foster parent/family than caring for any other child in a family. If you are financially able to support yourself and those living with you, you are financially capable of fostering a child. While the cost of family outings, entertainment, and incidentals may increase slightly, the monthly stipend generally covers most of the child’s needs.

MISCONCEPTION: Fostering children is financially lucrative.

While foster parents receive financial help to care for their child, it isn’t enough money for a foster parent to make an income. The goal of the financial stipend is to cover the child’s necessities, and ensure the child has adequate food and clothing.

MISCONCEPTION: All foster children are bad, juvenile delinquents, or runaways.

One of the greatest myths about foster children is that they are in need of a home through some fault of their own. A common misconception about these children is that they are bad, aggressive, violent children no one wants or can handle. This is simply not true.

Many of the kids in foster care have had a tough start to their life, and as a result need support to heal. The child’s reaction to the trauma they may or may not have experienced is as varied as the child—some children act out, some withdraw, some resolve to live as if nothing occurred. Foster children are carefully placed with families capable of helping them heal, and foster care agencies provide support to both the child and family.

The most important thing to remember is like all children, foster children are resilient.

MISCONCEPTION: All foster children have been sexually or physically abused.

Over half the children removed from their home are moved due to neglect. It is unfortunate and true that sexual and physical abuse does occur; however, most children who experience abuse are primarily neglected. Recent national increases in adult drug use has caused an increase in children being removed from a home due to adult drug use and parental incarceration.

Despite the reason a child is placed in foster care, it is important to remember foster children need love, and are often removed from their home through no fault of their own.

MISCONCEPTION: You have to be young or older to be a foster parent.

There is one age requirement to fostering a child—21 years or older.

We often hear this myth from empty-nesters or older foster parents/families. While caring for kids surely keeps a parent on their toes, there is no rule that states only young parents need apply. Likewise, from time to time, a young family or parent will believe they are not “established” enough to foster a child. This is also far from the truth. The greater reality is foster children need love from a caring adult, and love does not have a target age.

MISCONCEPTION: Foster parents can only be heterosexual married couples.

As times have changed so has the idea of what constitutes a traditional nuclear family. Far gone are the days where same-sex couples, single dads and mothers, or older couples/empty-nesters were not considered a standard American family. Outside of age requirements, background checks, and other tests to ensure you have the space and resources to take care of a child, all perspective foster parents are considered and welcomed to apply.

MISCONCEPTION: I need to be a home owner.

Homeownership is not the only definition of a stable, and loving home environment. Foster children need a stable home environment—whether that takes the form of an apartment or house. Foster children need school stability, and space to live and thrive in.

MISCONCEPTION: Foster parents are stay-at-home parents.

The median age of foster youth is 7.8 years old, or school-aged. These children spend the majority of their day in school, and work well for families with working parents.

Arrangements can be made for after-school care, as well as daycare for foster parents of younger children. Daycare, after-school care, and preschool are all options for foster care families, and there might be reimbursement pay available for licensed preschools and/or daycare costs.

MISCONCEPTION: Foster parents cover medical insurance.

Medi-Cal fully covers medical insurance for foster youth.

MISCONCEPTION: I won’t have a choice in the child who is placed with me.

The primary goal of foster care placement is to place the right child with the right family. All our families have a voice and decision in the placement they receive. We work hard at assessing the child’s needs, as well as the strengths and experience of our families to ensure a proper fit between child and family.

MISCONCEPTION: I will have to keep taking in children.

A number of foster children are a part of a sibling set, but we do not give families more children than they can handle. We also do not guilt or pressure a family to take in more children than they can adequately, and comfortable care for.

MISCONCEPTION: I don’t have parenting experience, so I shouldn’t be a foster parent.

Foster children need responsible, loving, trustworthy parents who are willing and able to pour love and care into them. Every parent starts somewhere, and we offer parenting support, classes, as well as a holistic team to help support our foster parents and children.

MISCONCEPTION: Once a child is placed in my home I’m on my own.

Part of providing our children with love, stability, security and tools to heal is making sure their family has support, resources, and tools to help them heal. Our foster families are supported with a holistic team that is present every step of the way to ensure a loving bond is established in the home, and the child and family has everything they need.

MISCONCEPTION:  I will get too attached; it would be too hard to see the child leave.

The greatest gift you can give a child as a foster parent is love, stability, security, and trust—all things needed to form an attachment. Though it will be hard to see a child move on, it is greater to know you gave the child the love and stability they needed during a rough patch in their lives. This attachment helps the child regain trust in adults, helps the child heal, and greatly adds to our community. We believe the greater pain is knowing a child is facing trauma without a loving adult and home to heal, and we trust the greater good you provide will outweigh the heartache of a child leaving your home.

We welcome and encourage you to share this post, and help us overcome the common misunderstandings about foster care. As we raise awareness together, we make it possible for more children to heal and experience the love and stability great foster parents offer.

To learn more about our holistic approach to foster care, please visit our Foster Care & Adoption page.

If you are interested in our parenting and foster care classes or resources, please visit our resources and parenting class pages.

If you are unable to foster, but would like to make an impact, consider a monetary donation. All donations are used to support our children and families.

Help support a foster child by visiting our many options to give.