6 Myths and 6 Truths about the Foster Care System

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There are hundreds of thousands of children in America's Foster Care System - more than 23,616 in Florida alone.  Misconceptions about foster care, however, can prevent a lot of great foster parent candidates from providing loving homes to children in need.  The facts below will help dispel many common myths you may have heard about the foster care system.  If you like what you read and are considering opening your home and heart to foster a child, you can learn more about the process at Children's Network of Southwest Florida, Children's Network of Southwest Florida is a private non-profit lead agency that administers the Child Welfare System in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties.

Myth:  Foster kids are difficult or out-of-control.

Truth:  They need solid, consistent, patient care.

While some foster children may have special behavioral, developmental or medical needs, it's important to remember that all enter the system due to no fault of their own - specifically, parental neglect or abuse.  Just because a child is in Foster Care doesn't inherently mean he or she is ill or "difficult", they've been placed there because of circumstances beyond their control.  Many have needs that require extra support, but a child placement agency like Children's Network of SWFL provides resources for foster parents that equip them with the right tools.  All children require consistent care which may mean going above and beyond to ensure their growth and well-being.

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Myth:  You need a specific kind of household in order to be a foster parent.

Truth:  Any household type can provide foster home supports to a child in need.  A traditional 2 parent household isn't required.

Foster parents should be financially and emotionally stable, but by no means do you have to be perfect.  In fact, the households that take in foster children can be as unique as the children themselves.  There's no age requirement (which makes it great for empty nesters or retired people), you don't have to be a stay-at-home parent (many foster parents work outside the home), and you don't have to be married (single, divorced and widowed people can all apply).  All you need to foster a child is a loving home and an open heart.

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Myth:  It's too expensive to house a Foster Child.

Truth:  The state provides Foster Parents with financial support.

Foster parents aren't expected to fully foot the bill for children in their care.  A daily payment is designed to cover basic needs (food, clothing, daycare, tec.) for each child; the amount received is based on the child's age and level of needs (the foster parents of children with developmental or behavioral issues, for example, receive larger reimbursements than foster parents of children without special needs).  Children in foster care are also commonly insured by Medicaid, which means their foster parents don't need to pay out of pocket for the health care.

Myth:  It's too difficult to become a Foster Parent

Truth:  The process is easier - and more important - than you think

While the procedure of becoming a foster parent may seem daunting, it requires 9 Steps as follows, Call 1(855)933-KIDS (5437), a 30 hour Pre-Service Parenting Program (once a week, 3 hours) called PRIDE, all household members must pass an extensive criminal background screening, homes must pass an environmental health inspection, the home must be safe and have adequate space for additional children to reside, families must be financially stable and capable of providing for additional children, reliable and safe transportation, reference provided must include: professional, personal, neighbor, family and school (for families with children living at home), a licensing counselor will complete an in-depth assessment of the family called a "home study".  The process from the time of inquiry until a family receives a license is different depending on the circumstances but averages 3 - 5 months.  If you are interested in learning more about the process, please call the number above or email Nancy Beeson for an informational packet.  During this time, families  can learn invaluable lessons about fostering and take the time to decide if it is ultimately the best decision.  Instead of considering the process burdensome, think of it as an opportunity to learn all you can for the sake of all parties involved.

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Myth:  Foster parents can't make a difference if a child has been through too much.

Truth:  All children, regardless of their past experiences, have the potential to thrive.

Foster parents can, and often do, forever change an abused or neglected child's life for the better by demonstrating that they're special, cared for, and not alone.  Regardless of their background and the amount of trauma they might have endured, foster kids are able to thrive when placed in the right environment.  All over the country, successful placements have helped children live fuller, happier lives.

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Myth:  Once a foster child is placed in your home, you're on your own.

Truth:  Foster parents are given consistent support throughout the process.

At Children's Network of SWFL, every foster child and parent is assigned a case manager who provides ongoing, 24/7 support helping them with whatever they might need.  Additional support is also available through local and state organizations.  Foster parents are also able to secure a respite care in case of a death in the family or a medical emergency where they would need  a backup Foster parent to help with the children in their care.  No foster parent is expected to do it alone!  A strong support system is in place to assist them every step of the way.