There seems to be a lot of expectations from foster parents. And the trouble is that these expectations can be unclear for both foster parents and agencies.We urge foster parents and agencies to have a one page checklist (see the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande) of parent expectations for every child because the child’s situation can be very different.
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 the authors identified:
We were fascinated with the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) data that provides a great overview of the nationwide foster care challenge. Here is the table from the AFCARS data for 2019 reported in 2020 . This is for children entering foster care in 2019.
Since this table is useful to both prospective foster parents and foster care professionals given the kinds of questions we heard at our May National Foster Care meetings here is a brief discussion:
We had a very successful first virtual meeting on May 19, 2021 between prospective foster parents and foster care professionals. Some of the parents had a lot of knowledge about foster parenting and had new questions that sparked spirited discussion. One of the questions was between authoritative and authoritarian parenting.
Kinship care refers to a relative (including grandparents) who takes care of the child with the inability of the parents to do so. Kinship Foster Carers can be paid or unpaid by the State Government/County depending on policy,funds available, and preference of the kin or relatives. Foster care is when a non-related,unknown family takes charge of the child and receives a stipend to cover costs. And then there are hidden foster carers, where the parents are theoretically incharge but the hidden foster carers are in practice responsible for the child.
It’s easy to imagine that a child who goes into foster care is different from a child who is in a normal stable biological family home. Just because of the instability at home. A trivial example, that our kind reader would recognize, is that a predictable cup of coffee in the morning gives a lot of comfort . Drinking a cup of coffee from a favorite cup adds to comfort, some of our friends tell us. Contrast such mundane comforts to the needs of traditional vs. therapeutic foster kids.