Focus on Single Foster Care Parenting

By Marsha A. Temlock, M.A.

TFoster mom and childhought about single foster care parenting? In fact, May is National Foster Care Month. What better time to learn about  foster care parenting and volunteering?

Nationally, more than half a million children are in foster care because of parental neglect, physical or emotional abuse. The number of children nationally receiving foster care services is on the rise. In 2007, data collected by the Casey Family Programs reported 783, 000 children in the U.S. needing some kind of child welfare assistance, and, if the trend continues, the projection is that by the year 2020, 10,5000,000 children will enter the system.

Facts about Foster Care

1. Foster parents are stand-in parents.

Almost a quarter of the children in foster care are placed in relatives’ homes and nearly half are in non-relative foster family homes waiting to be reunited with their parents or guardians.

2. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 requires states to seek a permanent placement for the child as quickly as possible,

be it reunification with the birth parents, kinship care, or adoption.

3. Two out of three children who enter foster care usually return to their families within two years.

The remainder age out of the system, are adopted or, in the case of older children or because of complex emotional or physical problems spend long periods of time awaiting adoption or some permanent arrangement.

4. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports a decrease in the number of foster parents (non-relative) available to care for children over the past 10 years,

which results in larger numbers of children having to remain in institutional settings.

Foster Care and the Recession

Whenever there is a deepening problem in the economy, there is increased activity in domestic violence and more cases of children being removed from their homes and placed in foster care. It takes a great deal of family disruption for kids to become wards of the state. However, for their safety and well-being, it may be the only solution.

The latest blip on the screen is the recession. It is not only harder for biological families to be reunited because of the lack of job opportunities and scarcity of affordable housing for parents who are homeless, it is more difficult to recruit and retain foster parents who may be feeling the pinch themselves facing unemployment and because more adult children cannot afford to live independently and are returning to the nest.

Let’s face it — foster care kids take up space. More and more adult children who have lost jobs and cannot afford to live independently are returning to the nest. This adds to the difficulty of finding homes. It also creates more opportunities for single women to consider becoming a foster parent.

Becoming a Single Foster Parent

More and more single men and women are opting to become foster parents for a number of reasons: in vitro fertilization is expensive and doesn’t always work; there are fewer domestic babies being put up for adoption; more countries that used to supply children are closing their doors.

As the need increases, more singles are being recognized as suitable foster parent role models. But it is a good idea to consider the challenges as well as the benefits before applying to be a foster parent:

• Foster parents must be trained and state licensed to make sure they are prepared for the responsibility. Foster care certification can only be obtained after personal interviews and home visits.

• Many agencies prefer to place babies and younger children in two-parent homes. Single applicants often receive harder to place children – older kids and/or kids who have complicated medical issues.

• Foster parents must have a stable source of income and provide dependable daycare for which they will be subsidized by the state. Not all the costs may be covered, however.

• They must provide suitable housing arrangements for the child.

• Adoption is available when and if a foster child’s biological parent(s)’ rights are terminated.

• States regulations differ. Contact http://www.fosterparenting.com/ for more information how to proceed.

Be Aware of the Challenges as Well as the Benefits

• Under the best of circumstances, single parenting is not easy. Be realistic of the changes in your life style once you assume the responsibility. Talk to other foster care parents.

• Job loss. One single foster mother interviewed for this article recently found herself unemployed. “The first thing I thought about was my four-year-old son who has been with me for two years. I am hoping to adopt him. DCF is working with me because they know it is in his best interests to be with me, but I am worried what will happen when my unemployment runs out.”

• Reimbursement rates are lower in most states than the true costs of providing for a child. Currently, there is the possibility of state budget cuts that can affect subsidies. Stay on top of what is happening.

• Foster care can be a traumatic experience for children who are removed even “temporarily” from their home. They live with uncertainty and feelings of helplessness and displacement. It is important for single foster parents to have a good support system. Many agencies offer round-the-clock support.

• Remember that you are a stand-in parent. The goal of foster care is family reunification.

There is nothing quite as gratifying as providing a loving home for a child and enriching your own life. More and more singles are sharing their stories.

For information about becoming a foster parent or volunteering, log onto http://www.fosterparenting.com/foster-care/state-specialists.html.

Marsha A. Temlock, M.A. is the author of Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect, What You Can Do.

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