My husband and I found ourselves accidental foster parents after the arrival of our daughter by adoption, and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to us. We had been licensed by our agency to foster and adopt, and while adoption was our goal for building our family, foster care changed who we are for the better.
We fostered four infants in the course of a year, for short and long-term stays, and it made us more patient parents, more compassionate humans and it taught us that we are much stronger than we ever realized.
There are certainly problems and injustices in the foster care system, but even though there are rules or facts you might not have known about before, it’s still a worthy and worthwhile pursuit. If you have the extra space and love to give, these are a few of the things you’ll encounter along your foster care journey.
It’s important to point out that foster care rules and regulations are different in every state, so if you’re concerned about any of these, you should ask your own foster agency or state child and family services department about their particular requirements.
You can’t cut their hair without permission
You’re responsible for making sure the child's fingernails are trimmed, but making a more drastic change to their appearance often takes clearance from your caseworker or the biological parents.
You can’t share their faces on social media
You’ve probably seen foster parents sharing photos of their foster children with hearts over their faces, and that’s because you can’t share your foster child’s face on social media.
In some cases, this is for the safety and security of you, your family and your foster child, but it’s also simply because you don’t have that right unless you're the child’s legal parent.
Visitation varies with every case
You might have a foster child who has visits with their biological parents or extended family every week, or they might not have visits at all.
Each agency and state also has different arrangements for how foster children get visits, so your case worker might bring your foster child to visits and you don’t have any interaction with biological family members. If you do, however, these visits are always supervised and monitored by caseworkers.
Foster kids can go to day care
Foster kids can attend daycare, provided it’s approved by child and family services. Sometimes a spot at a day care takes a little while to open up, so it might not be immediate, but it’s definitely possible.
You have to vaccinate
Even if you choose not to vaccinate your biological children, most state foster agencies will require that you vaccinate your foster children. In fact, even if your foster children’s biological parents are anti-vaccinations, the state will have a judge make a ruling that the child has to be vaccinated.
You need a little extra space
You don’t have to have a mansion, but you do have to meet the minimum space requirements set by child and family services. That usually means a bedroom with a certain amount of square footage per child.
Foster parents aren’t necessarily the first option for adoption
When a foster child’s parental rights are terminated (sometimes referred to as TPR, or termination of parental rights), it might seem like the logical next step would be for the foster family to adopt the child.
However, once parental rights are terminated, that's typically when the state looks to find any other biological family members who would be willing to adopt the child. If there isn’t a suitable biological option, the foster family is typically the next in line.