Blog Post 3: Opinions on Foster Care

To learn more about my topic, and whether or not it is a good idea for me to pursue my topic further, I had three conversations with people that I’m close to.  I had one conversation with my mom, one with my sister, and one with my dad. All three agreed that foster care was a good starting subject for me. My mom and sister offered their opinions and insight into the foster system, especially with how it helped the children in it.  My dad made suggestions to help me narrow down what I wanted to focus on, and gave me ideas for how I might go about influencing that specific topic subject.

My mother is a strong believer in the foster care system.  She believes, as a former teacher, that every child deserves to have a family to take care of them, even if that family is a foster family.  She said that while “there [is] a group of kids out there that… need extra attention” and help that an average foster parent would be unequipped and unprepared to provide, a responsible and loving man or woman should be able to handle caring for a foster child.  My mom believes that “different families can help in different ways.” Some children need to be in an environment with children their age; others need to be fostered by someone trained to help children overcome traumatic experiences or combat mental illnesses. While people who want to foster children have good intentions, my mom also said that someone with a very busy lifestyle and career probably would not make as good a foster parent as someone who has more free time to spend around the child.  Many foster children are used to having to fight for the attention of their parents, and a foster parent too busy with work, school, or other commitments would make for an environment not much healthier than the one the child came from. A foster parent, like any other responsible parent, must also set boundaries and rules for the foster child. The child may be used to having people in his or her life that don’t care what they do, so to set these rules is a sign of love that will help the child function in the “real world.”  

My sister also supports foster care, and the good that can do a child when he or she is placed in an appropriate home.  Placing a child from an abusive, neglectful, or an altogether “bad” home into a place with nurturing authority figures “[breaks the] cycle” of abuse.  While there are some accounts of foster children taken from abusive homes and placed into other abusive homes, “most people [in the foster care system] are good” people who genuinely care about the safety and well-being of the child.  We see stories on the news, almost weekly, about people who have committed horrible crimes. How many times have their actions been connected to early childhood trauma? In removing a child from a harmful environment and exposing them to one that instead rewards responsible, healthy behavior, the child might be spared further pain.  It may also prevent a child from growing into the type of person their biological parent or parents were, and lead them towards becoming loving parents, if they choose to have kids, to their own children. Positive role models are essential for teaching a child right from wrong, as well as showing him or her what it means to be a kind person and parent; many foster parents fill this role for children coming from homes where there wasn’t a positive role model present.  My sister also believes that children in neglectful homes act out by being unruly and loud because their negative actions are the ones that make people pay attention to them. In a good foster home, they wouldn’t need to be “bad” kids anymore because they would have people in their life who love and want the best for them.

 

I saw where both my mom’s and my sister’s opinions were coming from, and I agreed with almost everything they said about the foster care system.  I was particularly impressed with my sister’s statement that foster care prevents an abused child from becoming an abuser or a bully, not because I hadn’t already thought about it, but because I hadn’t thought to articulate the effectiveness of the foster care system in that way.  

 

When I explained to my dad that I wanted to do something with the foster system and foster parents, he suggested that I focus on people who maybe hadn’t considered fostering a child and on something that would encourage them to change their minds.  He gave me somewhere to start my research; statistics showing how many children need foster homes, how many foster families are already actively helping these children, and how many more foster children need to be placed in homes would be instrumental in influencing adults who don’t see themselves as parents or feel ready to take on the challenge of raising a foster child to give it a shot.  He also suggested that I make the age range of children who are least likely to be fostered or adopted, most likely the older children in the system, my target for awareness through my project. Bringing up “some positives of [fostering] an older kid” is a better approach when trying to convince someone to become a foster parent than bombarding someone with desperate-sounding facts and statistics about how many foster children need homes.  Facts and statistics don’t mean much to the average person with the “someone else can do it” mindset. Identifying how he or she can help a child in need, as well as what that experience can give the foster parent, is much more convincing.

 

These interviews allowed me to realize how many routes I can take with my project while also helping me identify how I feel about the foster care system.  I am more interested in pursuing this topic now that I was before the interviews because I feel like the beginnings of a plan for my project is forming. I want to help children in the foster care system, but I am not old enough yet to take on the role of foster parent.  This project will allow me to play, instead, the role of educator and informer. Very few people, if any, are against foster care, but not very many people know how they can be involved, either. I want to focus my project on encouraging people who haven’t considered fostering a child before to take on the challenge, and hopefully persuading more people will open their homes to children in need.

Kaitlin Emerson

5 Responses to “Blog Post 3: Opinions on Foster Care

  • Robin Mary Bebo-Long
    6 years ago

    Kaitlin,

    First, let me apologize for the late post. I hit my head and was unproductive for a couple of days. I am wondering how you plan on convincing people to become foster parents. Do you know any foster parents you can interview for ideas? I look forward to hearing how this goes. I agree with your parents, particularly your mother. A foster parent is making a life-changing commitment to any child they take in. What do you think are important qualities in a parent? What did you mean when you said: “This project will allow me to play, instead, the role of educator and informer.” I want to read more about your work and see how it takes shape.

    • Hi Robin,

      I don’t, actually, know any foster parents that I could interview, but I’m hoping to interview some of the case workers in Saint Albans that help place children with homes. I’m counting on their testimonies being convincing enough, especially when detailing their work with the foster families and how many children need to find homes, to persuade people who haven’t thought about foster a child to consider it.

      I agree with what my mother said during the interview. Any parent should be loving and patient, yet also willing to set boundaries and discipline a child for breaking the rules. Parents should not necessarily be their child’s friend, but they should always be open and welcoming should the child need to talk to someone.

      Because I am still a teenager, I am unable to influence this issue by taking in a foster child, but through this project, I can try to convince others to.

  • Hi Katie,
    This is a topic that definitely has so many different avenues of discussion. It’s super interesting that within your family you received different advice and thoughts. Something that struck me was the stereotypes that some people brought up. Which lead me to wonder if that is a reason why not as many people are willing to help children that need a home. Are the stereotypes driving people away? But in other cases, they might be helping out. Something that isn’t as current is the Burlington orphanage that was shut down but now is receiving some attention around sexual assault. When reading this I want to know what are you thinking about diving into this topic within Vermont?
    Have a great weekend
    Meredith

    • Hi Meredith,

      I definitely think that stereotypes might be keeping some potential foster families away. Maybe I can incorporate this aspect of foster care into an argument about how many stereotypes surrounding children in the foster care system are not only untrue or exaggerated, but also harming the children. There are so many children in Franklin and Grand Isle counties, over 200 children, that need foster homes, but they won’t get the chance to be placed in one unless more Vermonters open their homes. Maybe I can attack this topic, especially within Vermont, by outlining how people can help and convincing people to do so. Many don’t have the resources to house a foster child, so maybe I can find ways they can help even without taking in a child.

  • Great post. I appreciate the complexity of your thinking and of the responses.

    My quick question would be this: Why are you interested in this topic?

    It’s an open question, really. But within your answer are there some ideas on how to frame it?

    To me another missing question is what, currently, is the biggest issue facing the foster parent program? What needs to be changed?

    I look forward to working with you.

    geoff

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