Foster parents are kind and caring people. It takes a good heart to step up and care for a child unrelated to you (foster care) or even related to you (kinship foster care). We found a great piece of research on what motivates foster parents by Tracy E. MacGregor, Susan Rodger, Anne L. Cummings, and Alan W. Leschied. titled “The needs of foster parents: A qualitative study of motivation, support, and retention.” in the journal Qualitative Social Work Vol. 5, no. 3 (2006): pages 351-368.
Here is a summary of intrinsic and extrinsic and motivators based on research in the US and elsewhere:
Intrinsic motivators: These are your internal motivators because this is the person you are. One or more motivations should be there if you are thinking of foster parenting. These are not in any particular order:
- Empty Nesters: Your own children have grown and left the home. You do want to take care of children who need you. You have interest in foster parenting.
- Wanting to adopt children/increase family size: This motivation is for wanting to adopt children. You might start with fostering with some intention to adopt eventually.
- Provide company for an only child: This is also one of the motivations. Your child is alone and another child can provide company.
- Societal influences like religion: How religious you are can be an important motivator.
- Former foster child: You could be a former foster child or have relatives that had foster children. This might make you more aware of the needs of foster children. And now you want to step up.
- Feel Blessed and want to give back: You feel that you are blessed and want to give back by caring for someone less fortunate.
- Want to provide a stable home environment: You want to provide a stable environment to a foster child as you see yourself as capable of doing so. This one is a critical requirement and this is something prospective foster parents need to ask themselves.
- Help Children-Love Children: This could be someone who generally loves children and loves taking care of children.
- Feeling responsible for a child relative who needs foster care: An added intrinsic motivator is from Susan Rodger, Anne Cummings, and Alan W. Leschied. “Who is caring for our most vulnerable children?: The motivation to foster in child welfare.” Child abuse & neglect 30, no. 10 (2006): 1129-1142. This one is about feeling responsible for a child relative who needs foster care. Also called kinship foster care, there is evidence that kinship care can work well as discussed in an earlier post.
Extrinsic motivators: These are external motivators. They come after you have one or more internal motivators as above.
The monetary stipend: Research indicates that foster parents are not primarily motivated by the stipend awarded to start fostering. Yes, it provides you some supplementary funds to do good without being out of pocket. However, research also indicates that people stop foster care because they find the stipend to be inadequate for the level of “work” that is involved. Thus, unless there are strong internal motivators a foster parent might want to give up. And naturally that is disastrous for the foster child. For there is nothing sadder than a child being moved from one foster home to another for any reason.
To summarize, prospective foster parents need to ask themselves about their internal (intrinsic) motivators.