Every month has a number of things to focus on, and I usually point out that May is Elder Law Month. But this year, I wanted to focus on Foster Care.
I see a lot of kids that go into foster care, but it is not a step that is taken lightly or easily.
The courts in Virginia are eager to reunite the natural family and there is a very involved process to remove a child from his or her natural family to be placed into foster care. Also, the children that are placed into foster care come back before the courts on a regular basis to review that decision and to see if the child can be returned to his or her natural family.
Children are not generally taken from a family and put into foster care unless there is some sort of breakdown in the parent-child relationship. Sometimes this is visible when the child is physically abused by the parent. Sometimes this is visible when the parent is physically abused by the child. Sometimes this is visible because the child is getting into trouble with the law and the parents are unable to handle the child. Sometimes the parent is not able to get the child to attend school on a regular basis. Often these children are determined to be a ‘juvenile delinquent.’ Rarely do well-behaved and emotionally stable children end up in foster care, so the foster parent has to work with a child that has already experienced some negativity in his or her life.
Often, the breakdown of the parent-child relationship occurs when the child reaches his or her teen years. As one mother pointed out to me recently, “she is 14 and I can’t just pick her up and carry her into school.”
The decision to have a child enter the foster care system is not just about the child. Since the goal of foster care is to reunite the natural family, the parents are also enrolled in age appropriate parenting classes and are generally offered other services that can be of use to help them become better parents for their child.
The foster parents do receive a small payment, but that is not the reason they agree to do this work. These foster parents don’t just take a foster child into their home, they take that child into their family. They love and nurture the child as if it was their own child. The foster parents take the child to doctor and dentist appointments, school events, sports practices and the ‘normal’ events a child attends. The foster parent also takes the child to court dates and meetings with social services and psychologists as needed. These are activities that most natural parents don’t need to worry about.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, most of the foster children have already been involved in some sort of negative experience in their short lives and the child is often difficult to handle. The foster parents attend special classes and get additional training on how to deal with difficult children with as much love and affection as possible. The foster parent also knows that the goal is to have the child leave them and go back to their natural parent. This can be a very difficult emotion to live with every day.
The foster parent also gets to know the natural parent and I often see them in court sitting together. I sometimes wonder about how difficult it is to know all about the situation that brought this child into your home and still be friendly and encouraging to the parent that was involved in that situation.
Are all foster parents terrific? Probably not. But the majority of foster parents are caring and loving people who have chosen to help society by helping one child at at time.
I am so very thankful that our society has people that are willing to take on the role of foster parent.