Hopes and Fears of Foster Parents

By Martha Nord

(Before ACT’s web site became active, Martha Nord answered our ACT phone line. Her comments stemfrom that experience.)

I've enjoyed talking with many of you on the phone, and I wish I had the time to follow up with you and your stories. I felt a real connection with you over the phone lines as you began to talk about your foster children with such love and concern, and often, fear. We are a foster and adoptive family also. Every child and every story is unique, but I hear common themes from across the state. This is what I hear:
  1. You have the ability to look at what is happening from the child’s point of view. You are terribly concerned about the emotional well-being of your foster child. Your home is where your foster child feels safe now - it is his or her home. If he or she is moved, you fear that he or she will feel abandoned by you, and great emotional damage will be done. For the most part, the children you call about and hope to adopt have been in your homes close to a year or, in many cases, over a year. It is time to give these children a permanent home. As a society that claims to care about our children, we cannot sanction children growing up with insecurity.
  2. You are afraid that if you are too “pushy,” the child will be removed. Tools to combat this fear are the case conference policy (Editor's note: a policy of the Indiana child welfare division at the time of Martha’s writing.) and documentation. Documentation means keeping a record of what you see happening and the effect it has on your child. Keep a simple journal about your foster child. Discipline yourself to write in it each day that your foster child has some experience which affects him or her significantly. Separations from you, visits with biological parents, school events, and relationships with other children are some of the items you might record. Do not record only negative things and do not be constantly critical. Try to be as objective as you can. This information could be valuable in conferences and court hearings regarding your child.
  3. You are afraid that if you do adopt, you will not receive the financial support you need to raise your special needs child.

(Editor’s note: an ongoing issue in adoptions from foster care. Support varies from state to state and from year to year. Learn about subsidies elsewhere on this web site.)