Fostering is hard! Most people enter foster care with pure intentions, later to find out after about a year that they no longer want to foster. You got into foster care because you wanted to leave your mark on the world; you wanted to make a difference in the community. Or maybe you simply wanted to help a distant relative. But you bit off more than you could chew, got it way in over your head, or simply got burnt out! Instead of looking like Mary Poppins, you look more like the Wicked Witch of the West! No one would blame you for getting out. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to leave if you no longer want to be a foster parent. Consider this.
Identify the issue
Figure out what the problem is. Were you unprepared for the trauma your child was a victim of? Did your child have special needs that you were unprepared to handle? Was your family not prepared for the massive change in the family dynamic? Was there a personality conflict between you and your social worker? Or the biological parents? Perhaps you simply had unrealistic expectations. Navigating the child welfare system can be a daunting task! There may be a myriad of reasons you no longer want to foster. Whatever the reason you are unhappy, please realize, it’s ok. The system is not perfect. People are not perfect. You are not perfect. And that’s perfectly fine.
Take a break, readjust, then come back
Perhaps you just need a break. Take a temporary leave of absence and use that time to reconnect with your family. Spend some time with some old friends who won’t be judgmental but can offer you some concrete advice. Come up with a game plan and make some changes. Perhaps you should request a different social worker or a different foster care agency. Or perhaps you need to change the parameters of your license/certification. Rather than taking infants, maybe you should consider caring for teens, who are pretty much self-sufficient, anyway. Maybe you should consider providing respite services only. This way, you have an opportunity to take regular breaks. Whatever the case, it is also good to re-evaluate and tweak your plan if you feel that fostering is the right thing for you.
Speak with your representative
Open communication is always a good thing. Tell your social worker, face to face, how you are feeling before making a final decision. He or she may have some suggestions you haven’t thought of. If there is a conflict between you and your worker, speak to the supervisor. There may be a simple misunderstanding. Communication goes a long way in solving problems.
Retire with dignity
Finally, don’t burn your bridges! Unfortunately, every negative thing that occurs in your foster parenting career goes in your permanent record. It’s one thing to make a mistake, but it’s another thing to purposely sabotage it. So, DON’T just leave your foster child at the front steps of CPS! That’s child abandonment! DON’T spread your disillusionment all over social media. DON’T gossip about individuals in the child welfare system. And DON’T break confidentially! Any of these things are sure-fire ways to get yourself blacklisted if you ever changed your mind in the future.
Foster care is not for everyone. It takes a special person to care for hurting kids on a temporary basis. If fostering is not for you, have you considered serving children in another way? Become a Big Brother/Big Sister. Become a mentor. Become a tutor. Or better yet, help another foster family in need. Maybe you can be a shoulder for that family to cry on in their time of need. You just might be the key in preventing another family from giving up. Not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something!
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.