Often when a news network airs a story on child abuse, the comments fill up with “Oh, give me that child!” and “I could care for that child” and “I would love that child” and “I would raise the child as my own.” I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone comment with “How do I become a foster parent so I can help these children?” or “I am a licensed foster home and have an open bed for a child in need.” When I comment on these threads, I say, “If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, send me a message. I can explain to you how to get started.” I have only received one personal message in response over the years I have advocated for others to become foster parents.
The Need for Foster Parents
Becoming a foster parent isn’t that difficult. There are classes—normally free—to take to become licensed. Then there will be background checks, home studies, and home inspections to make sure there is adequate room and a safe environment for the children. Once all has been passed, then a family can start to accept calls for children in need of a home. If you’re truly passionate about getting started, the process from start to finish only takes about six months.
In the state of Texas, there are currently over 16,000 children in foster care. The number of licensed care givers and homes is far less than that. One of the greatest problems in foster care right now is there aren’t enough homes for the children once they are removed from their biological families. Many children are being forced to sleep in CPS offices or hotels with a caseworker until a home can be found.
Keeping Families Together
One of the goals of foster care is to keep children in the region they were removed from so they can have visits with family. The state also wants to keep siblings together, if at all possible. Siblings are often separated, because there just aren’t enough homes with enough beds to place the children together. Many of the families coming into foster care are large sibling groups, and it’s impossible to keep them together, especially if there are older children in them.
Here’s an example: Three weeks ago, I took a call from my agency for a two-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. It wasn’t really the placement I was hoping to take, but the agency explained that I was the only home available with two beds open in Region 1, where they were also from. If I didn’t take them, they would be moved out of the region and separated. These two are very close little siblings, and I didn’t want them to be separated. So I took them in to keep them in region and together.
Becoming a Foster Parent
If you have the space, the compassion, the clear criminal record, and the ability to care for children, rather than ask, “Why should I become a foster parent?” ask yourself instead, “Why shouldn’t I become a foster parent?”
There are many benefits to becoming a foster parent: financial support, watching children develop and grow, being the voice for children who haven’t had one, showing children what true love and safety is in a home. Yes, you will become attached, and yes, it is painful when some return home, but sometimes it’s also rewarding. Not every parent is a bad person. Some just made bad choices that they learn and grow from, and they work hard to get their children back. Those moments are rewarding. For those moments when you feel the child shouldn’t be returned—and you will have those moments—for those moments when you are so attached that your heart breaks when a child is removed from you, just know you did all you could to love and provide for them—that they were able to feel so attached to someone that it matters when they’re gone, that someone did hurt when they were moved, that someone did care enough to fight all they could for them. You can be a voice, provide a home, and save some little lives.
Tish Rollo is a single mom of one adopted child from foster care. She became a foster parent at age 34 and adopted her first child at age 37. She holds three college degrees and works as an adviser for a community college.