What is foster care?
Many of us have heard about the foster care system. Much of what we have heard focuses on the negative aspects of foster care and foster parents. Some of what we have heard is incorrect. What the foster care system is: a temporary arrangement in which adults provide for the care of a child or children whose birthparent is unable to care for them. Foster care is not where juvenile delinquents go. It is where children go when their parents cannot, for a variety of reasons, care for them. Foster care can be informal or arranged through the courts or a social service agency. The goal for a child in the foster care system is usually reunification with the birth family, but may be changed to adoption when this is seen as in the child’s best interest. While foster care is temporary, adoption is permanent.
How many children are in foster care?
On any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States.
What challenges do children face in foster care?
It is important to understand the range of challenges children entering foster care may have experienced in the past or may currently be experiencing. There are a variety of reasons that a child can be removed from his/her home and placed in foster care. Some of these reasons include:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Witness of domestic violence
- Exposure to drugs/alcohol during pregnancy or within the home
- Neglect of medical problems
These stressful life events can impact a child’s ability to develop skills, learn information, and get along with other children and adults. As a result, children in foster care are at greater risk for having delays in their development. To find out more about child development and developmental delay, see how children develop for more information.
Also, when a child is removed from her home, she must face the challenge of moving to an unfamiliar foster home with new caregivers. Unfortunately, it is common for a child to be placed in at least 2 foster care homes before a more permanent foster home is found or the child is reunited with his/her parents. All of these transitions are stressful and can also impact a child’s ability to develop new skills and form relationships with other children and adults. See If I am a foster parent, what can I expect when a child comes to my home for the first time? for more information.
On the positive side, there are a lot of things a foster parent can do to help improve the development of a child in their life and help them handle their feelings and behavior in an appropriate way. See If I am a foster parent, what can I do to help the child in my life? for more information.
Why are foster parents needed?
Those who view foster care from the outside may wonder why it’s so important. Perhaps some have even thought about becoming foster parents but haven’t taken the next step. It may be helpful to understand why there’s such a need for this service.
- Safety and Stability: The primary purpose of foster care is to provide a safe and stable environment for a child who cannot be with his or her parents for some reason. An environment that feels like home instead of a group home or other residential center is usually best for a child. Children who have been uprooted from their homes need a place where they can feel safe. Many times, they have suffered abuse and/or neglect from their parents, so they have no idea what a loving home feels like. Foster parents help them learn what it’s like to eat, sleep, and play in a place that is safe. Often, the place they previously called home was chaotic with no routines or sense of normalcy. These children must learn what it’s like to get up and go to school, eat regular meals, and have schedules. Knowing what is going to happen every day gives the child a sense of stability that is often lacking.
- Education: Much of the time, biological parents love their children, but problems they are dealing with prevent them from knowing how to be a parent. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or other issues, they cannot provide what a child needs. As a result, the child doesn’t know what a “normal” life looks like. Foster homes teach children what it means to be a kid. They learn to laugh and love and to act their age. It often takes time and patience for children to relax enough to be themselves or even to figure out who they are. Foster parents have the big task of helping children learn about themselves and the world around them in a positive way after experiencing so much negativity in their lives.
- Stopping the Cycle: Foster parents have the important role of teaching children what a family looks like. Through foster care, they get the individual attention and guidance they need to help them grow and develop according to their age. They see what being a parent is supposed to mean, so that when they grow up, they don’t have to continue to the cycle. Often, foster care provides a safe transition period for the child while the biological family gets their issues resolved so they can be the parents they want to be. The foster parents not only support the child, but they support the parents, too. They help the parents fulfill their roles and feel less alone in their struggles. The biological parents can know their child is safe and being cared for while they focus on getting their lives on track. Foster care plays an important role in caring for kids in an already-burdened system. It is an essential component of bringing families together and helping kids to grow up and excel in life regardless of their past.
What do I need to know about fostering/foster kids in Wyoming?
The biggest need statewide is foster parents for youth and children ages 12 & up. Too often, children in foster care are moved from one home to another- or live in group settings such as group homes or residential treatment centers. In fact, many youth and children that do not have a home available in their county for their age can be moved out of county and have to change schools, have less visitation with their biological family, and cause further trauma. Frequent moves can make it hard for children to concentrate, build friendships or relationships, heal from abuse, neglect, and trauma, and achieve security and feel loved. While short visits to residential treatment facilities can be necessary to address crises, kids that live in facilities long term takes away from a child’s chance to experience regular family life, build bonds, and develop life skills.
The gist is this: kids ages 12 and older are still in foster care because of mistakes made by their biological parents. Their situation is NOT their fault. One of our kids recently told us, “I realize I’m not a cute baby…but I still want a family. I still want a home. I still need people to love me.” Kids 12 and up need support, need someone to talk to about their day, and a person to eat meals with.
What kind of support do foster parents receive from LFC?
LFC is so much more than a closet shopping environment full of community sourced donations. LFC is a volunteer staff that is here 24/7 to listen to your concerns, your venting, and to meet your needs. Our goal is to uplift and support, to get to know your kiddos, to provide a positive environment with adults that love your kids. Every child and youth should be seen, heard, and loved. LFC offers events so that foster parents can have breaks, offers special holiday programs for every holiday, and offers a 24/7 hotline that is a resource for foster parents. LFC offers support groups and acts as a community connection for other community resources and nonprofits.
Foster parents in Cheyenne and Laramie receive deliveries free of cost when children enter foster care. All they have to do is text, email, or fill out a form on our website (that is verified with DFS) to receive items in the sizes they request.
LFC also equips newly licensed foster homes with fire extinguishers, first aid kids, beds, dressers, and more! Fostering shouldn’t involve financial struggle.
Who Can Foster?
You don’t need to own your own home, have children already, or be young, wealthy, or a stay-at-home parent to adopt or foster. Although eligibility requirements vary between states and territories, in most instances marital status, age, income, and sexual orientation will not automatically disqualify someone from being a foster parent or adopting a child from foster care.
Characteristics needed to be a good foster or adoptive parent include:
- Being stable, mature, dependable, and flexible
- Having the ability to advocate for children
- Being a team player with your family or child welfare worker
More Foster Parents are Needed. Fostering Isn’t Easy, But It’s Worth It.