Whether you are just starting to think about fostering or are already a foster parent, you may be wondering how many children you should take into your care. The simple answer to that question: as many as you want. There is no shame in caring for only one child at a time or having a whole houseful, if that is what you desire. Every family is different, and you should do what works for you and your family. Here are some things to consider.

Siblings

Many children in foster care have at least one sibling also in care. Ideally, siblings should be kept together, but Job and Family Services is not always able to locate a home that can take all of them. There is a need for families who are able and willing to take these sibling sets to keep sisters and brothers together.

Room

There are additional things to consider when deciding the number of children you want to foster. Obviously, you need to make sure there is room in your heart, home, car, and budget for these children. It can be difficult to say no, but if you know you have reached your limit, you won’t be doing anyone any favors by saying yes.

Time

You should make sure you have time for each child. It’s difficult to know the needs of each child before you meet them, as each situation is unique. You should plan on most children having visits with their biological families once or twice a week. If your foster children are all siblings, their visits will most likely be together; otherwise, you may be making several visit trips each week. Many children in foster care will also have some type of therapy each week, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or psychological or behavioral therapy. The children will also have visits from their caseworkers, guardians ad litem, and possibly court-appointed special advocates each month.

Needs of Current Family

You should also consider the needs of everyone else already in the family. Do other children in the home need more time to settle in before you bring more children into the family? The parents should be the ones making the final decision, but it’s beneficial to check in with the entire family to make sure everyone is on board and willing to support one another on this foster care journey.

Agency Policies

Your county or foster care agency may also have rules or policies indicating the maximum number of children you can have in your home. For example, if you already have five children, you may only be able to take one more child. On the other hand, just because they say you can take six children does not mean you have to or even that you should.

It’s not always easy to decide how many children to care for. You may never feel completely prepared. After you’ve discussed everything as a family and thought about all the options, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. What do you feel is right for your family? If you have a lot of doubts, then start slow. You can always open your home to another child when you feel ready.