Friday, October 5, 2012

The Stereotypical Large Foster Family/ Making Room for More

Earlier this year I heard a teenage boy in foster care speak on a panel and share his experiences with a group of foster parents.  When asked what he preferred in a foster family he said, “I didn’t want to be placed in a home with lots of children because I didn’t want to be somebody’s babysitter.”  Sadly, this teenage boy had enough experience parenting his younger sister throughout most of his life before being placed in foster care.  He needed a chance just to be a kid.

This past year I also came across some comments from birthmothers and expectant mothers in an online adoption forum in which one expectant mother posed the question, “Would you ever consider placing your baby in a home that does foster care?”

Perhaps I was being too sensitive, but the implications of the question kind of bothered me because Are foster children (and foster families) really that different from biological or adoptive children and families?  Then again, maybe this particular birthmother imagined all foster homes being packed full of children- like sardines in a can- and was worried that her child would have to compete for time and resources.  If that’s the case, it made me think “Just because a family does foster care doesn’t necessarily mean they have 500 kids running around!”

Both of these scenarios suggest that the stereotype abounds that all foster families have huge numbers of children in their home at one time.   Perhaps this stereotype goes hand in hand with the assumption that foster families take in children just for the money.

As for my family, we certainly do not fit the stereotypical mold of a large foster family with a dozen children of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds filing out of a large passenger van everywhere we go.

First of all, we only have one child of our own and up to now we’ve only taken one child at a time as a foster placement.  Part of the reasoning that my husband and I have stuck to taking only one placement at a time is that we’ve both developed some pretty strong feelings and preferences over the years of being able to give the children in our home the quality and quantity individualized attention they need.

I would never want to have any of the children in my home feel like they’re a permanent “babysitter” to other children, as the teenage boy on the panel felt.  That is a responsibility that belongs to a parent, not a child.  Nor do I ever want any of the children in my home to ever feel overlooked or like they have to compete for attention- especially if they’re more likely to have special needs which require additional care.

Despite these concerns, we’ve decided to get out of our comfort zone and do something we’ve never done before:  We’ve become licensed to take two foster children at a time, if needed.  I suppose the term “if needed” is an oxymoron since there is ALWAYS the need for homes for foster children!   We did some rearranging (since space is another big factor in determining how many children we can potentially care for) and made another bedroom available for one more child.   

Although the self-centered part of me is hoping that the end result of making room for more is that we could end up “keeping” the next child that comes into our home on a permanent basis [Please just once can we adopt one of our foster children?!  Please can a birthmother find us soon so that we can be an answer to each other’s prayers?] the more humble, submissive part of me (the part that takes much more discipline to listen to) wonders if maybe God intends to keep using us to help more children if only for a little while,  regardless of what’s in it for us.

I love the imagery of “making room” from this poster:


The Queen Mama said...

You will find that you are able to give quality and quantity time to more than two children if you are placed with them. Having 5 children in our home, a mix of biological, adoptive and foster, ranging in age from 11 months to 15, and at one point having 6 children altogether, I can tell you that each child, some with special needs enjoys one on one time as well as shared family time. There are advantages to big families that foster-lots of parenting experience with different personalities so something the "new" child brings isn't so "new" (behavior, attitude, needs, etc.), lots of children to help him/her along/adjust to the new home; finding someone they feel they "click" with, etc. That being said, in general, I don't think the number of children in a foster home matter, but the safety, guidance and love foster families provide do. PS-I know your post was not against large families fostering, just your own personal view, and I applaud you for opening your home/hearts to more children!

Mie said...

This is a great post. I want to echo the thoughts of being ok to have a large family, that the stereotypes about large families themselves are not always correct. We only foster up to 6 years old and have had up to 5 kiddos (under 6) in our home at a time. Though it sounds crazy, we've been able to give all of them individual attention and no one gets overlooked - we just do things as a family, together, with individual time intentionally added in.

Best wishes as you try to go to 3!