Debunking 8 Common Foster Care Myths

Foster care is surrounded by many myths and misconceptions. Despite there being over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, false assumptions about the foster system are widespread. This prevents many caring individuals from becoming foster parents and discourages others from supporting children in foster care. 

The purpose of this article is to debunk some of the most common foster care myths with the right facts. In doing so, we aim to help potential foster parents make informed decisions and have more people consider becoming advocates for children in the system.

foster care myths

Myth #1: Foster kids are bad kids 

Many people assume that children in foster care are troubled kids with behavior problems, a myth that is incredibly harmful to the children in the system. A lot of these kids have gone through incredibly traumatic experiences that may impact their behavior and cause them to act up, but this does not mean they are fundamentally bad kids. With the right support, these children have tremendous opportunities to thrive and be successful. 

Myth #2: Foster care is only for abused/neglected kids

There is a common assumption that children in foster care are there solely because they were removed from abusive or neglectful parents. This belief is simply not true. Some children enter foster care because their parent is incarcerated and have no other family member able to take them in. Other children’s parents may have passed away, leaving them without a guardian, and in other cases, a parent may have voluntarily put their child in the system due to not being able to care for them properly. 

Myth #3: You’re too old to foster

foster care myths

Being “too old” is a misconception some people have about becoming foster parents. While there are minimum age requirements (18 to 21), which vary by state, there is no maximum age limit to be a foster parent. Usually, older adults make excellent foster parents because of their life experiences, patience, and free time to dedicate to fostering children. Older foster parents can also guide teens in the transition to adulthood, providing the wisdom and stability they need. 

Myth #4: You have to be married to foster

A common myth about becoming a foster parent is that you have to be married. However, there is no requirement stating that foster parents must be married. Single adults are able and encouraged to become foster parents. Many single adults successfully serve as foster parents and provide stable, nurturing environments for children in need. They can also model healthy single-parent families and give the child more individualized attention and care. 

Myth #5: You can’t choose which child is placed with you

As a prospective foster parent, you might think that you don’t get a say in which child is placed in your home, but this isn’t entirely true. While you don’t get to hand-pick a specific child, you do have some choices when it comes to the type of child you feel equipped to foster. When you are applying to become a foster parent, you can specify if you are open to fostering a child with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, or complex medical needs. You can also indicate if you would feel comfortable fostering a sibling group. These options can impact how quickly you receive a placement but will not disregard you as a potential foster parent.  

Myth #6: There can’t be pets in the house

foster care myths

If you’ve heard it say that you can’t have a pet if you’re going to foster, don’t be discouraged; this statement is completely false. Pets are not only allowed but also very beneficial for children in foster care. Having a pet can help provide comfort and unconditional love to the many foster kids who have faced trauma and upheaval in their lives. Studies show that bonding with a pet can help children manage stress, build empathy, and learn responsibility.

If you have a pet and are planning to foster children, be sure that your pet is up-to-date on all vaccinations and vet care. Additionally, depending on the agency, your pet may need to have his temperament assessed, as aggressive dog breeds may not be permitted. Some agencies also require training certificates. 

Myth #7: You can’t work full-time

Although some people believe that you can’t work full-time as a foster parent, having this type of job does not disqualify you. In fact, many foster parents work full-time jobs while also opening their homes to children in need. While fostering does require a significant time commitment, agencies understand that foster parents have careers and other responsibilities. The key is being able to show that you can balance fostering with your job.

As any working parent, there may be times you need to rely on other caregivers or family members to help out, and that’s ok! The good news is you’re not alone. And some foster care agencies even provide childcare stipends or after-school programs to help out as well. So you can 100% have a full-time job and be an amazing foster parent. 

Myth #8: You pay for everything

Contrary to popular belief, foster parents do not pay for all of the expenses related to caring for a foster child out of their own pocket. There are several financial supports available, such as monthly stipends, reimbursements, and health insurance. The financial assistance provided helps eliminate the monetary obstacles to becoming a foster parent. While foster parents still invest significant time, energy, and love, they typically do not pay for the child’s needs out of pocket. 

Foster Care Myths Takeaway 

foster care myths

Debunking myths about foster care is an important first step in becoming an informed advocate. Far too often, these types of misconceptions deter good people from opening their hearts and homes to children in need. While the truth about foster care is more nuanced, the basic requirements are simple: qualified, caring adults who can provide a stable environment. 

Foster parenting is a challenging yet rewarding way to change a child’s life. If you feel called to help, don’t let myths stand in your way. Learn the facts, then take the next step. Attend an orientation, contact your local agency, or reach out to foster parents. There are so many ways, big and small, to positively impact the foster care system. With an open mind and a compassionate heart, you can help fulfill every child’s right to be safe, valued, and loved.

About This Author

Melissa Rodriguez
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Melissa Rodriguez holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Texas State University and has over 20 years of experience in childcare services and administration. She is a Licensed Child Placing Agency Administrator, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and ensuring agency compliance with policies, procedures, and contract requirements, in conjunction with the Executive Director and Executive Administrator.