As of 2020 (the most recent year with data available), more than 400,000 children and youth were in foster care in the US. Yet, despite being a vital resource for thousands of children each year, foster care is often shrouded in myths and misconceptions.
Unfortunately, those myths and misconceptions can be damaging. If false information is repeated often, it can be perceived as truthful — a phenomenon known as the illusory truth effect. Misinformation, false assumptions, and overgeneralizations about the people involved in foster care can be extremely damaging.
First, it can discourage prospective foster parents who are desperately needed to ensure that all children receive the support they need to flourish in a safe environment. In addition, it misconstrues children and youth in foster care, further making people less likely to become foster parents.
Continue reading to discover the truth about foster care so that you can separate facts from fiction.
Fact or Fiction?
- Children are placed in foster care because they’re juvenile delinquents.
According to the 2022 U.S. Adoption and Foster Care Attitudes Survey, 50% of Americans surveyed incorrectly believe that children are placed in foster care because they’re juvenile delinquents.
Fact: Children are placed in foster care because they’re not in a safe environment for various reasons, including neglect, parental substance abuse, poverty, etc. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own.
- Foster children are “damaged goods.”
Fact: The belief that children in foster care are irreversibly “broken” is untrue, destructive, and unfounded. Although abuse and neglect can cause behaviors that fuel this misconception, it’s important to realize that their behavior manifests the trauma they’ve experienced. Yet, with the help of professional counselors and loving foster parents, children in care can thrive.
- The problem is too big; I can’t make a difference.
Fact: While it is true that no single individual or family can change the lives of the thousands of children who need foster care, it only takes one person or family at a time to show children what it means to be unconditionally loved and supported.
- Foster care is too challenging.
Fact: Being a foster parent is not without challenges, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Knowing that you’ve provided a stable foundation for a child to grow in a safe environment can outweigh the difficulty of caring for children who have experienced trauma. Many foster parents have an incredibly enriching experience despite these challenges.
- I can’t be a foster parent because I’ll get too attached.
Fact: Foster parents get attached, but that’s not bad. The idea that foster parents don’t get attached implies that they’re cold and heartless, which is not the case. While it’s not easy to say goodbye to children you’ve nurtured, knowing that you’ve contributed to their well-being is rewarding.
- I’ll be on my own.
Fact: Foster families do not enter the system blindly. Before a child is placed in their home, foster families receive extensive training on caring for children in foster care and ongoing support from social workers and other professionals.
- Adoption is the primary goal of foster care.
Fact: The top priority for foster care is ensuring the safety and well-being of children. Another major goal is helping heal families so they can be reunited. Foster care isn’t punitive. Instead, it offers temporary assistance for families who need help and is predicated on the belief that parents can change. Although some children are adopted, the goal of foster care is reunification with their biological families.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
Foster care is a challenging and often thankless task, but it’s also an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children. By providing a stable and nurturing environment and addressing any trauma that a child may have experienced, foster parents and child welfare professionals can help children thrive.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. One thing that sets SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages that up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide that becoming a foster parent isn’t right for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. Donations change lives! The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for more than thirty years.