It’s hard being a foster parent!
Anyone who has ever been a foster parent knows that there are hundreds of reasons to quit foster parenting. In fact, I’ve heard that the average foster parent only last 10-18 months before they throw in the towel and call it quits.
Why are foster parents throwing in the towel?
Some of the reasons for quitting that I’ve personally heard, and some of theses were reasons that my wife and I felt were serious enough to quit over, are: “Working with case workers is too hard–they just don’t care”, or “It just takes too big of a toll on my family”, or far too often, “I can’t stand to be a part of such a broken system”. These are just a few of the reasons for quitting that I’ve heard, and I’ve got to say, they are all valid reasons.
Why I’m not giving up anytime soon.
So, with all the reasons to quit foster parenting, you might ask, “Why are you not giving up?”
Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are 5 reasons I came up with.
1. I’m fully aware of the need.
After being a foster parent for over 6 years, I am more aware of the need for good parents, and this need is not going away. As a principal I’m even more aware of how many kids are in the system, and how many more could be. The truth is, there are hundreds of kids who need kind, loving parents who are willing and capable of providing a positive and structured environment for foster kids to grow and succeed in.
2. If I don’t do this, who will?
I remember being in college and having roommates. There were certain things that needed done but no one was willing to do them. It seemed like I was the only one willing to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, and take out the trash. After I got fed up, I moved out of that apartment, and in with my grandma (laugh if you want, but my grandma was the best roommate ever). I went to visit shortly after I moved out and the place was a pigsty. With no one there to do chores the mess just got bigger.
While I didn’t feel like it was my duty to clean up after my roommates, I do feel a responsibility to provide help and support to foster kids who really have no one else. Yes, the foster care system is a mess, but if I don’t help, who will? In fact, I’m convinced that the reason the foster care system works at all is because of the dedication of good foster parents and caseworkers.
I can only imagine that if I, and other good foster parents, get out of this system, much like when I moved away from my roommates, all hell will break loose.
3. No one can foster parent like me and no one’s more qualified than me.
I’m not saying I’m the world’s best foster dad ever; in fact, some of my foster kids have told me that I was the worst foster dad ever. What I am saying is, we are each unique, and it is our unique qualities that help us meet the unique needs of each unique child. It is our individuality that is needed.
Now, up above I said that no one is more qualified to be a foster parent than me. Yes I have 4 years of certification with the National Teaching-Family Association, we’ve passed our home study, and we have 6 years experience, but what really makes me so qualified? Again, I’m so glad you asked. Here’s a list of my qualifications:
- I love working with teens. I coached sports, taught school, worked with church youth, and I’m a principal of a high school.
- I love sports. I watch football and basketball. I get up at 5:30 a.m. at least 3 times a week to play basketball with my friends. My basketball friends often include former and current foster kids.
- I have a witty sense of humor. My jokes are awesome and are sure to elicit one of the following responses from my foster teens: uncontrollable fits of laughter, an eye roll, or mild embarrassment.
- I like to play board and video games. The hard part of being a board-gamer is finding people willing to play. If your foster kids are bored enough, you can get them to try anything. We often trade off board games for video games. It’s fun.
Pretty impressive qualifications right? Okay, they’re nothing special, but they are unique to me and for some kids they are just the right blend of qualifications. And, yes I know that I’m not the best foster dad in the world, but there are a couple of kids out there who think I am.
4. I’m getting better all the time.
I’m not perfect, but I am getting better. Sometimes I’m grumpy and irritable. Looking back, there are some situations that I could have handled better, but I’ve learned from those, and today I would handle similar situations much better. Foster parents are not perfect, and contrary to what people always tell my wife and me, we are not saints.
The truth is, there is no all encompassing manual on how to parent or foster parent. Yes there are tips and books that can help, but ultimately, it’s the experience that is helping me improve as a foster parent.
5. Being a foster parent helps me to be a better person.
Like I said earlier, I’m not perfect. But, I do believe that being a foster parent helps me be a better person. Naturally I’m selfish. Being a foster parent helps me think of others. It helps me see the world from a different perspective. As a teenager, I thought my life must have been the hardest life. I thought my parents were the meanest parents who were not cool at all. I must confess that I was just a dumb teenager, and I promise my parents were great. Seeing what my foster kids go through helps me understand why they act they way they act.
Being a foster parent helps me be a force for good in the world. I’m not rich enough to be like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, but I can be a superhero in my own way. I can’t fly or see through walls, but I can foster parent, and that’s pretty cool.
So, as you can see, even with all the problems with foster care, I’ve got too many reasons to stay. Batman and Superman might be able to save the world, but I can help save someone’s world as a foster parent.
And, just some food for thought, Batman and Superman were both orphans. You never know. You might be raising a super hero!!
Ben Pugh and his wife Deb are currently foster parents of 4 brothers. By day, Ben is a principal at a high school on the Ute Indian reservation. By night, Ben and his wife try to hone their superhero skills by blogging and podcasting. You can check out their new podcast HERE!
If you’ve ever thought about quitting and decided to stick with it? Leave us a comment and let us know about your story.