Almost half a million children were in foster care in September 2016, according to information from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). Of those, nearly half were in non-relative homes. The need for foster homes continues to grow, with some areas experiencing an increase in children coming into care.
Those who view foster care from the outside may wonder why it’s so important. Perhaps some have even thought about becoming foster parents but haven’t taken the next step. It may be helpful to understand why there’s such a need for this service.
Safety and Stability
The primary purpose of foster care is to provide a safe and stable environment for a child who cannot be with his or her parents for some reason. An environment that feels like home instead of a group home or other residential center is usually best for a child.
Children who have been uprooted from their homes need a place where they can feel safe. Many times, they have suffered abuse and/or neglect from their parents, so they have no idea what a loving home feels like. Foster parents help them learn what it’s like to eat, sleep, and play in a place that is safe.
Often, the place they previously called home was chaotic with no routines or sense of normalcy. These children must learn what it’s like to get up and go to school, eat regular meals, and have schedules. Knowing what is going to happen every day gives the child a sense of stability that is often lacking.
Much of the time, biological parents love their children, but problems they are dealing with prevent them from knowing how to be a parent. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or other issues, they cannot provide what a child needs. As a result, the child doesn’t know what a “normal” life looks like.
Foster homes teach children what it means to be a kid. They learn to laugh and love and to act their age. It often takes time and patience for children to relax enough to be themselves or even to figure out who they are. Foster parents have the big task of helping children learn about themselves and the world around them in a positive way after experiencing so much negativity in their lives.
Stopping the Cycle
Foster parents have the important role of teaching children what a family looks like. Through foster care, they get the individual attention and guidance they need to help them grow and develop according to their age. They see what being a parent is supposed to mean, so that when they grow up, they don’t have to continue to the cycle.
Often, foster care provides a safe transition period for the child while the biological family gets their issues resolved so they can be the parents they want to be. The foster parents not only support the child, but they support the parents, too. They help the parents fulfill their roles and feel less alone in their struggles. The biological parents can know their child is safe and being cared for while they focus on getting their lives on track.
Foster care plays an important role in caring for kids in an already-burdened system. It is an essential component of bringing families together and helping kids to grow up and excel in life regardless of their past.
Joyce Morse is a full-time content marketing writer who is also a single adoptive parent and current foster parent. She has a seven-year-old adopted daughter who is her inspiration. Her passion is to help others understand the miracle of adoption and the needs of children who are looking for their forever homes.