Why Foster Parents Quit? (How To Help So They Don’t Have To)

Being a foster parent is one of the most important and honorable services that a person can do for their community!

It takes a special person to welcome a foster child into their home and make them feel like they are one of their own.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of hurdles that foster parents have to face when fostering a child.

It even gets so difficult at times that foster parents quit the process all together.

Here is a list of why foster parents quit and how to help them so they don’t have to.

For more ways to help children check out our article How To Teach A Child Respect

1. Thinking Love Solves All Problems

A lot of new foster parents come into the process very excited and passionate about how they are going to change the world one child at a time.

Many new foster parents feel that the only thing that they will need is love and that singular emotion will guide them through the trials and tribulations of being a foster parent.

While love plays a huge role and is very much an essential part of becoming a foster parent many people end up finding out that love itself is just not enough when looking at the big picture of being a foster parent.

Foster parents definitely need to harness the power of love but what they will realize is that they are going to need to learn so many more concrete strategies if they are going to be a successful foster parent.

Due to this many foster parents don’t utilize the many people and protocols the system has put in place for them until it is too late.

They end up having a lot of love in their hearts but not enough tools and skills to help their foster children like they would have liked to.

They feel like they have failed the child and feel like they should quit…

Don’t Quit! Here’s Why:

Here are some tips that will help you not quit, feel confident and most importantly be there for your foster child. ( Each state has its own procedures and terms but these will get you moving in the right direction)

  • The key to being a successful foster parent is not going about it by yourself. Isolation is your enemy!
  • Really pay attention to the Pre-Service Training or New Foster Parent training. People who breeze through this training miss out on information that will help them in the future. This is something that many people do and feel that they can love or will their way through the foster parent system. It doesn’t work!
  • Find a mentor or get help for someone who has foster parent experience.
  • Find a foster parent support group or Facebook Group for questions and help.
  • Locate local foster banks (places that help with supplying clothes/equipment).
  • Take additional training such as TBRI or Trust-Based Relational Intervention. This training is a therapeutic model that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children
  • Many foster children have had to deal with a lot of trauma in their life. Educate yourself as much as you can on child trauma and how it affects them.
  • Make use of all support personnel. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Advocate for your foster child even when the system doesn’t make it easy.
  • Go ahead…Love them to pieces!

2. Limiting Lifestyle

Being a foster parent guarantees you a special place in heaven but these kids will make you earn every bit of it!

One of the things that makes foster parents quit is how difficult it can by to accomplish the little ordinary errands and tasks.

Each state as their own requirement and rules for everything from getting your foster child a hair cut to going on vacation.

Some foster parents get so bogged down in the regulations and red tape that they feel like they can’t getting anything done.

Getting things done is hard enough without having to get written approval to take your sick foster child to the doctor or get a baby sitter.

To make things worse, the inability to quickly and efficiently get things done leads to things pilling up and the uphill battle gets worse.

They feel like they have failed themselves and their children.

They feel like they should quit…

Don’t Quit! Here’s Why:

Here are some tips to help you cut through the red tape and get things done!

  • Some foster parents don’t know about the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard or IFAPA.  In 2014, Congress put into place a federal act that gives foster parents “more discretion in allowing foster youth to engage in what would be considered typical childhood”.  While this can make a big difference in allowing you to get things done you must do some due diligence for yourself. This is because each state has its own interpretations or restrictions of the act and some states have their own separate foster laws like in Florida and California.  Along with that, some private fostering agencies may have some say in how the act is utilized.
  • Be ahead of the game! In some cases, you will need prior approval so set up a calendar system on your phone or computer to remind you two weeks to three weeks before an activity occurs so you can provide the appropriate paperwork.
  • Start finding babysitters and caregivers for your foster children right away. In some states, this can be difficult because the restrictions and rules are more strict. Everyone needs help, so the quicker you find appropriate child care when you have to be away will make everything go a lot smoother.
  • Many if not all states require notification before leaving the state. This can put a real damper on any last-minute vacations or trips. Do your best to try to preplan your vacations to help minimize disappointment.
  • Find a good grocery delivery service and use it. Depending on how many kids you have it might not be worth dragging them all to the store. In many states, leaving children at home with siblings is not allowed unless they are 18 years or older. This being said, the small fee that is present with the delivery service might be worth its weight in gold. It’s hard to put a price on your sanity.
  • The more knowledgable you are with the different intricacies of your county’s, state’s or agency’s policies the better you will be able to plan and manage your obligations as a foster parent. Once your routines are set and everything seems more manageable this is where the real fun begins.

3. Biological Parents

Biological parents sometimes known as bio-parents or birth parents can be a foster parent’s biggest asset or their biggest hurdle to overcome during the foster process.

Unfortunately, the biological parents have made mistakes and the state has decided that it is better for the child to be removed from the parent’s custody.

The bio-parents are made to go through a number of steps call their case plan to improve themselves or their surroundings before they can start the process of getting their children back.

The foster parents as well as the caseworker and other support staff are the intermediary between the state and the bio-parents while also taking care of the children until the steps have been completed by the bio-parents.

This can be a fairly quick process if the bio- parents are focused on completing the improvement steps.

On the other hand, it can be a lengthy process if the opposite occurs and can lead to TPR or terminating parental rights if everything is not completed to the satisfaction of the state.

These steps can differ depending on the state where the child or foster parents reside.

Most bio-parents understand their mistakes and love their children dearly and will do everything in their power to get their children back as quickly as possible.

In other instances, the bio-parents are not in a good place mentally or physically after their children have been ordered out of their custody and don’t act in their best interest or in the best interest of their children.

Bio-parents can be very negative toward the foster parents as they see the new foster parents as a threat to them getting their children back.

Sometimes they feel that if things go well with the foster parents that their children won’t want to come back home or will abandon them.

There are stories of bio-parents trying to sabotage the system by trying to turn the child against the foster parents with the thought that if the fostering fails the state will have to return their children to them.

There are all different kinds of things that the bio-parents can do to make foster parents’ life miserable and in some instances, some foster parents would rather quit than continue.

Don’t Quit! Here’s Why:

In order to be a successful foster parent you will have to focus all your energy on being as empathetic as you can toward the bio-parents.

If that is not a possibility as the bio-parents have burnt their bridge with you, you will have have to focus on how to best help the child through this very difficult and emotional process.

Here are some ways to help cultivate the relationship with the bio-parent as well as doing what is best for your foster children.

  • Before meeting with the biological parents sit down with your caseworker along with other support staff and set up acceptable guidelines and boundaries that are based upon on best practices for you, the bio-parents and your foster family.
    • Set up procedures for when someone needs to reschedule a meeting
    • When it is appropriate to video chat, call or text
    • Discuss how gifts and other presents will be handled
    • Be prepared on how to handle the “I will be leaving soon” conversation after the child has had a visit with the bio-parent
    • Document everything you can so there is no confusion on what has happened and what will be happening.
    • Once you have agreed on the guidelines be constant so everyone’s time is respected
  • Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster after the children have a visit with the bio-parents. Having a system in place for dealing with the emotions that can occur after a reunion visit with their bio-parents will make each meeting easier for both you and your foster children.
  • The first time you meet the bio-parents say to them “tell me about your child” this seems to set them in the mindset that you know it’s their child and that you are not trying to take their children from them. It reminds them that you are there to help and do what is best for their children and your foster children.
  • Try to look at the situation from their point of view and look at the relationship as a partnership. This will help you realize that the better the bio-parents are doing the better it will be for your foster children.
    • Although it’s OK to be empathetic, it is still very important to have clear and actionable boundaries. Allowing the bio-parent to pull on your heartstrings to the point that it becomes uncomfortable for you and your family will make things more difficult for everyone.
    • Do everything you can do to help the bio-parent understand that your main concern is the safety and success of their children and that can only happen through mutual respect and teamwork.
    • Work with the bio-parents to help them understand how to use the programs and resources that are offered to them by the state so that they can get the help they need financially, mentally and procedurally.
    • For more help on cultivating the relationship between foster parents and biological parents visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s recommendations.
  • In some instances, the bio-parents have done unthinkable things to their children. You will need some time to think about this and plan on how to handle the situation so that you are able to have a professional relationship with the bio-parents as much as possible. 
  • Even if you have tried your best and despite all of your best efforts the relationship with the bio-parents still brakes down work with your caseworkers and support staff to help with communication and scheduling.

 

One of the best ways for parents to help their children is to help them prepare for school. Here is our article What Should My Child Know Before Kindergarten (Checklist) that will do just that!

4. Dealing With A Broken System

A lot of the foster parents I have spoken to have talked about the “Broken System”.

The broken foster care system has been a discussion that has been headlined for decades.

Some say that there are too many regulations and other say their are not enough or that they need to be revised.

Many foster parents are disappointed that there are not more national guidelines so that there is more consistency between states when fostering.

Foster parents are supposed to get support from case and social workers but sometimes foster parents are let down by these same people that are there to guide and steer them in the right direction.

From not getting the correct information to the worst-case scenario of not being told the truth about certain situations, it seems that if a foster parent doesn’t get a dedicated and well versed social worker it can make a foster parent’s experience much more difficult.

The foster system is also known to prioritize the biological or birth parent’s rights over the child’s rights creating an endless loop than many times is not best for the foster child.

In some instances, the state is so concerned with getting the children back to the bio-parents that they put the children in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation only for the children to be placed back in foster care.

It has been said that the birth parents get far too many chances to make changes in their life or to complete their case plans which can be a detriment to the children in foster care.

The best case scenario for everyone would be that the parents have made the proper changes in their life, the child can go back to loving parents and live a wonderful life.

All foster parents would love to see this scenario come to fruition!

Unfortunately many foster parents experience a different and less joyfull reality.

Sadly many foster parents feel like they don’t really have a say in this broken system and they decide to quit.

Don’t Quit! Here’s Why:

Regardless of how “broken” the foster care system is perceived to be children all over the world need the diligent and intelligent guidance of strong foster parents.

It is very easy to get bogged down in all the red tape and bureaucracy but here are some ways to stay in the game for the long haul which will inevitably make a lot of children’s lives a lot better.

  • Start by researching everything you can about your states foster care guidelines and procedures.
  • Take your time when going through the state-required trainings. Many times the information is there, you just have to really be paying attention or dig through a lot of information to find it.
  • Document as much as you can! Try to communicate via email or another documentation friendly medium so that everything is clearly in writing and easy to interpret.
  • Advocate for your children! As we have said before, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so talk to as many support staff as possible to get the results you need. Make sure you document everything, including who you talked to and if possible have them email you with what is being done so you have it in writing.
  • Do some calling and find out which support staff will be the most helpful. In many cases, it will be the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). In others, it could be the Caseworker or the Social worker. It really all depends on the situation but in order to best help your new foster family, you will need to find the ones that will be your best support. Hopefully, you will have a team that will guide you through the good times and tough ones.
  • Don’t forget to use other experienced foster parents as guidance. Having someone in your area that knows people and the system is invaluable. Ask them if you can take them to lunch and many times their knowledge will help you jump over many of the standard fostering pitfalls.
  • Understand how important you are! As a foster parent, you are helping your community more than you can ever imagine. Changing the lives of foster children will start a ripple effect that will be seen for generations to come. It will not always be easy but I believe that foster parents will have a special place in heaven regardless of the situation.

5. Having To Say Good-Bye

As you can see from the above information that there is a lot to improve in the foster care system.

Having to deal with the “broken system” to just having to deal with your own misconceptions can be a lot to handle for one foster care family.

Although you could combine all these issues into one big blob of drama and it still could not compare to having to say goodbye to one of your foster children.

Most foster parents understand that reunification of their foster children with the biological parents is one of the main goals of fostering.

The fact that it is happening in the first place is a huge win for the bio-parent and the foster parent but regardless of how great it is for everyone.

Although, it is still a very emotional time for the foster family because they are the ones that have to say goodbye to their foster child.

In many cases the foster child has been with the foster family for many years and they are no longer seen as a foster child but as just one of the family.

Regardless of the time the foster children have been with a foster family, many will tell you whether it has been 2 months or 2 years saying goodbye is the toughest part of being a foster parent.

This is so tough that many foster parents can’t handle the emotional roller coaster and the pain associated with saying goodbye to foster children multiple times.

Their heart hurts so badly that they feel they can’t continue and feel like their only solution is to quit fostering all together.

Don’t Quit! Here’s Why:


Regardless of the preparation, this is going to be hard but here are some tips that can help you and your foster child get through this process the best you possibly can.

  • Even though it is painful it is good to remember that you have done your job well and this was the outcome that foster parenting was designed for. You gave your foster child everything they needed so they could eventually thrive with their biological family.
  • Understand that this is a real greaving process and make sure you treat it as such. Go through the proper process of grieving if you need to and understand that you have done an amazing thing for your community. 
  • Be upfront as possible with your foster child. Although remember that many times things are not finite in the foster care system and things can change at any time so just make sure the information is as relevant as possible before talking to your foster child.
  • Start taking pictures right away so that when it is time for your foster child to leave you can have memories for both you can your foster child. A good idea is to give the leaving foster child a memory book filled with pictures, drawing and special memories.
  • There are many benefits to having a good relationship with the biological parent but doing so now will help ensure that you can possibly still keep in contact with your former foster child or at the very least get updates on how they are doing.
  • This is a tough part of the fostering process. If you need to talk to someone, whether it is someone in your family or professionally, please do so as it will help the grieving process. 
  • Even though it is a sad time, when you are ready, take your family on a family vacation or do something special with them to celebrate what a great job you have done.
  • Talk to your foster child and let them know how great they have done with you and how all the great things that they have learned during their foster care stay is going to help them live an amazing life with their biological parents.
  • Remember that every moment that you have spent helping a child in foster care has a great impact on not only the foster child’s life but in the success of the community around you. 
  • Understand that giving so much energy to someone else is very draining and it can leave you feeling empty emotionally and spiritually. It’s OK to take some time off from fostering to help recharge your wellbeing batteries so that eventually you help another child when you are ready.

Thank You For Being A Foster Parent!

As a school teacher I hear a lot of ” I don’t know how you do it” or ” Bless your heart, I could never be a teacher”.

Dealing with children can be very difficult and being a public school teacher I do understand and am empathetic to how the system being broken or at the very least not being efficient can make things much more difficult than they need to be.

Although, as a teacher and a father, I can honestly say to foster parents ” Wow, I don’t know how you do it”!

It takes such incredible strength, passion and possibly a bit of masochism to bring a child into your family, treat them like your own, only to have to say goodbye to them in the unforeseen future.

You are an amazing group of people and you deserve the highest praises that are humanly possible.

Thank you!

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