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“I’m considering fostering, but I’m single.”

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I love talking to people about foster care. Often they tell me that they’re interested, but there’s this one thing that’s holding them back. I’ve been asking people to submit that one thing to me so I can address the issues. Some concerns are easy to clear up. Sometimes the concern is a clear reason why a family isn’t a good fit. So let me know in the comments of this post if you’ve got an issue you want me to address.

So what about the man or woman who feels like foster parenting might be the right thing for them to do, but they aren’t married? Is there a role for them in the foster care system? I love that I have friends who are asking this question. I love their hearts and the compassion they show for kids who need them. So here are my thoughts on single people as foster parents.

The ideal vs. the real. The ideal for every child is that they are able to be raised by their biological parents. Every option after that is less than ideal, but a necessary solution. In my perfect world, if a child can’t be raised by their biological parents, then they should be raised by some member of their family who is safe. If not their family, than by a loving, married couple who can make a long-term commitment to them. If not with a married couple, than by a single person. When we were adopting our son in West Africa the woman who ran the orphanage talked to us about why they were the only orphanage that allowed single women to adopt. She said, “A single Ma is better than no Ma.” That has stuck with me. These single women were adopting kids who were considered unadoptable because of their medical needs or age. There wasn’t a line of waiting two parent families for them. Their options were a single mother or spending the rest of their lives in an institution. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the women who took on that challenge. I know this line of reasoning can feel offensive. Nobody wants to feel like they are Plan C, but my concern isn’t with how adults feel as much as about what’s best for kids. Which is why I’m okay with being offended myself as I realize kids aren’t meant to be separated from their biology and that our family is in some ways a Plan C, too. The ideal isn’t always possible and in those cases I love to see how God uses the real solutions he provides.

There is a NEED for single people to foster. While ideally I think it’s best for most kids to have a two parent home, there are some cases where a single parent is necessary. If you had been abused at the hands of men, you might have a really difficult time living with one. In which case, a single mom might be best for you. I loved hearing a “graduate” of the foster care system talk about how she bounced through several homes until she landed with a single woman who had dedicated her life to raising teenage girls who would have had a difficult time living with a man in the house. This girl felt so much love from her foster mom and the foster sisters in that house and was able to experience healing. I want you to hear me clearly:  It isn’t that there are situations where a single parent would be okay if there wasn’t a two parent family available, it’s that a single parent would be PREFERABLE to a two parent family. There is definitely a need and a role for the single foster parent in the system. If you’re feeling called that way, you need to seriously consider what God is asking you to do.

Evaluate your resources. Foster parenting is tough if you’re a two person team, I can only imagine how much tougher it is when you’re going it alone. You need to be sure that child is getting their needs met, you’re working with bio family and the team, making it to court dates and team meetings, etc. Can you do that? It’s probably going to require some help. It’s good to look honestly at what your resources are- do you have a community that can help, the financial ability to be sure kids get what they need, the emotional reserves to make it through the tough times. You also need to be careful that your foster child doesn’t come into your home with a job to do. They can’t be a band-aid for loneliness or be used to meet your need for a family. And I say the same thing to couples pursuing foster care who are struggling with infertility. It may be wise to get the go-ahead from a counselor/pastor/trusted friend that you are ready to give to a child who needs you and aren’t looking for a child to fill your needs (although they often do!).

Identify the kind of child you’re equipped to help. Our focus ALWAYS has to be on the needs of children. Whether it’s in foster care or adoption, the focus can’t be on finding kids for people who want them, but on finding the right home for each child. I think this becomes even more crucial when you are a single person involved in foster care. If a child would benefit from being in a home with a mom and dad and a mom and dad are available, then I think that’s where they need to go. If a child needs to be in a home with a single person, then we should be able to offer them one. Anybody going into foster care needs to think about what they are able to offer and what they aren’t. A newborn child can’t go to daycare. An older child is going to need help with homework. A child with medical needs is going to have lots of doctor appointments. You need to be confident about what needs you are able to meet and draw boundaries around what you can’t. Nobody wins when we take on more than we can handle.

Enlist the support of your community. As you think through the challenges and blessings of foster care, talk to your community— your friends, your extended family, your church. It is good to find out how supportive they are of you taking this on and let them know what kind of help you may need from them. I think this is crucial for every foster parent, but especially for the single foster parent who may have times where an extra set of hands is necessary. Find out who is willing to get background checked and do respite care when you need it, who can help with carpooling, who will be your parenting mentor, who can go with you to court. Nobody should go this alone.

Foster parenting is a rough path, but it is incredibly rewarding. Kids need homes with stability, consistency and love. You just might be the one to provide it.

Single foster parenting friends, any words of wisdom to add?

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30 Comments

  1. Hi, Just wanted to weigh in… I’m a single foster mum. I’m in my 30’s and made the decision a few years ago. Not as a substitute for marriage and bio children but because fostering is close to my heart and I felt God was calling me to it.
    I only foster babies and I only do short-term fostercare. I’m not sure if the American system is the same as ours (Australia) but short term can be anything up to a few years. Basically I’m the safe home while the court decides the long-term future of these babies. I have been asked to keep a few of them as forever children and it broke my heart to choose to say goodbye after over a year of loving the little ones but it’s like you wrote – if there’s the possibility of a two parent family then I believe that’s the better option than staying with me. For me to choose to keep these little ones I would effectively be choosing fatherlessness for them.
    It is really, really hard to do this alone. Every single night without sleep, with no breaks and no-one else to help with the load. And just as a baby becomes settled and more happy is usually when it’s time to start all over again. I don’t have much formal support but it amazes me that God sends the right person along with just what I need whenever I’m feeling at the end of my rope. It’s hard to carry the load of grief alone, hard to stay compassionate towards bio family.
    However, there is nothing else in this world that I would do instead. I love this life, this work. I love how it makes me dig deeper into the Father, I love to see these little ones blossom with prayer and care and love and I love to pray God’s plans and purposes for their future.
    It is a privilege to foster. I spent many years thinking it was impossible for me because of my singleness and I regret now that I wasted so much time.
    Thanks for sharing this post!!

    • Oh Kate, I want to hug you! Thank you so much for investing in these kids in such a beautiful and selfless way. And thank you for the realistic picture of what this is like from your perspective. Today you are my hero.

    • Incredible, Kate! I am cheering you on from the heartland of the US. Praise God for the work you do!

    • I’m still on my journey and know I’m not ready to foster, but I want to and I came here to see how close I am, but wow.. Your post just touched my heart so much.

      I ended up back with my bio-mom, she has a mental illness which is why they took me from her for some time as an infant. I’ve never met my foster parents, but to see your post and your selfless love. My heart. Thank you so much for sharing and thank you so much for helping people like myself.

      Reading your words really brought tears to my eyes.

  2. I too am a single mother doing foster care. I find it offensive that it is alluded to that single moms should take the kids that the 2 parent homes don’t want, so that means the kids with the greatest needs! Shouldn’t the 2 parent homes be the ones that are encouraged to take the kids with the greatest needs since there are 2 of them.
    Being a foster parent is hard, single, married or otherwise. If someone has the love to give and resources to care for a child, their marital status should not be a factor. The child I currently have was in a 2 parent home with several other children, and since coming into my home she has been able to stop all therapies she was receiving prior and is flourishing. She is getting quality 1 on 1 time that she desperately needed…. the home she was in prior was a great home, but I believe that she is thriving in my home because she is the only thing that is demanding attention.

    • Mikel, there is difficulty in talking about the theoretical when each situation is unique. As you’ve pointed out, your foster daughter is benefitting from the kind of individualized attention she could only get in a small family. I’m thankful that she’s in your home getting her needs met. For other kids, they are going to be best served in a two parent family. What I’m wanting to emphasize is that it should always be about what is best for the kids, not necessarily about “equality” between single and married people. I don’t think single parents should take the kids “that the two parent homes don’t want” but should take the kids who need a single parent. Every family has their strengths and they need to analyze what those are and commit themselves to taking the kids they are best qualified to serve. I don’t think single people should always be taking kids with the greatest needs or that married couples should always take the kids with the greatest needs. It is much more about knowing yourself and your abilities and taking kids you can help. It sounds like you have done that and I commend you for it.

    • Mikel, you’re doing an awesome thing!

  3. I am a single foster and adoptive mom. The truth is, it’s hard. Crazy, sometimes ridiculously hard. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I believe one hundred percent that my daughter is supposed to be part of my family. My village has been an amazing support. And I do think that I’ve gotten calls about certain placements specifically because I am a single woman.

    I had a few conversations with different folks about the “ideal vs. real” issue when fostering was still a theoretical for me. But the reality is, there are kids in my community that need a safe place (for a little while, or a long while) and I can help. After meeting those real, live children, no one has broached that topic again.

    My advice for potential foster parents (married, single, whatever)… we need you. If you feel called, go for it!

  4. Thank you so much for this. I have been praying about fostering myself as a single lady.

  5. This is great! I am so encouraged by the number of single men/women in our fostering classes right now! I think your message and others is being heard loud and clear!

  6. Hi! Ever since I was 14, I’ve known I wanted to be a mother more than anything else. Ever since I was 16, I’ve known that I wanted to be more than just that. I want to foster children. I want to adopt children. I never knew the “horror” of foster care because I was one of the lucky ones. I was adopted at 10 by old family friends after a year of living with them. And it has left me with a deep need to save other children like me. The ones that were just on the wrong side of too old to have a good chance of ever leaving the foster system. I want to specialize in families. Too many times my mother babysat for a little girl who would tell me how she wished she could see her big brother or little sister again because they’d been split up. I know in my bones that one day, I will adopt a teenager and do my best to love and heal them.
    I have all these dreams, but the biggest obstacle to them was always the fact that I’m single! Men have frightened me since I was a little girl and I find it very hard to interact with them for long lengths of time. And finding a man that shares my dream? Almost impossible. I want to settle down and marry and put my dreams in motion, but I’m afraid it may never happen for me. But I don’t want to let that stop me from helping children grow up into healthy, loved adults.

  7. I m single and work. No kids. How hard is it to qualify to foster older child if I work full time?

    • You’d need to contact your a local agency to find out what their requirements are, but many foster parents are employed full-time. Many states pay for childcare for foster children while their foster parents work.

  8. Pingback: Being an Aro Ace and Desiring (Foster and/or Adoptive) Parenthood | From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

  9. I was a single parent myself I find it a little harder to be a single parent but also it makes you feel like your doing good for a child that has no one to love them a good single parent is better than two bad parents. My son is 30yrs. old now I feel I have learned alot in rasing him. I have learned also from my mistakes, I know I would love to be a foster parent but I don’t want to get married to be one. so I would love to know more about this. I would love to learn more about this. Thank you

  10. This is really good information. I am a single woman VERY interested in fostering and all of these comments and this artical were great! Thanks 🙂

  11. I’m a single foster mom to a beautiful and energetic 6-year-old boy. I’ve had people ask if I wouldn’t rather my kids have a two-parent home. I say when there are enough godly couples willing to walk this road of ministry, I’ll step back. But there aren’t. And this is what God has called me to. It’s the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.

  12. Hi, Im a single woman who is very interested in becoming a foster mom. My question is what is seen as more valuable in a foster parent, time or financial resources? I have the option of working more to make more money but that would also be less time to spend at home. I want to foster so I dont want to make a career decision that prevents me from doing that.

    • This is just my personal opinion Cheryl, but I think time and flexibility are going to be most important. You receive a stipend to help care for the foster child’s financial needs so the hope is that they are not a financial burden to you. But they will need lots of time, especially when a placement is new and adjusting to your home. If you have a job that can give you more time to devote to that child and some flexibility so you can attend court or team meetings, that is what I would prioritize. Hope that helps!

  13. This is a note to Jennifer H. & all people interested in foster parenting. To my knowledge I was the first single parent ever (at least in my state – it had never been heard of I was told by the judge) & I was only 26 years old. God brings people into your life for a reason. I was/am the type that loved waiting on my man hand & foot (an old saying), and had divorced him about a year earlier. I was raising a 5 yr old & a 7 yr old by myself and had to quit a job that I loved (due to stress – they took me out by ambulance twice); I realized I needed to change jobs. So……… I found a job really close to home. After 6 months I had doubled her business & she still had not yet given me the raise she promised me so I told her if I can do it for you, I can do it for myself and started my own business from scratch (most would say that’s exchanging one type of stress for another) which I had for 25 1/2 years – I always loved a challenge though. I sat down one day to read the local news paper want ads; something I NEVER did. Low and behold there was a want ad the court had put in the paper (they were desperate) “wanted, a home for a 16 yr girl that has tried every drug on the market, if interested please call the court at ****** ” . I remember thinking who in their right mind would want to bring a drug case in their home, especially if they had children etc.? I thought about that ad all day, I could not get it out of my mind. I thought about my own two little ones and what was it that children really want most. I decided all children really want in life is to be loved, someone to show they care and to be part of a family. I had this hole in my life from my divorce and thought, I could shower her with love and attention – after all, that’s probably all she needs/wants. (Maybe I was a little nieve.) So, you guessed it, I called & set up a meeting with the judge. He wanted me to tell him about myself (single, 5 & 7 yr old kids, started my own business and was going to college part time at night to become a business consultant). Then he told me about her; 16, parents divorced, her & 2 brothers were living with their father which most of time were left alone as the father traveled to Europe on business all the time & he eventually abandoned them permanently. She had dropped out of school, had tried every drug on the market at one or another in her life, her boyfriend was a heroin addict, and every home they had put her in she would get the couple fighting & arguing and then she’d skip state and the court would have to find her & bring her back. The judge told me the court would have to think about it because they had never had a single foster parent before and that they’d get back with me. I told the judge I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on her showing her a good time or anything, that all I could afford was to take my 2 kids out once a week for dinner wherever they wanted to go (It was always A&W, that was their favorite) and that the inexpensive fun was camping or playing ball in a friends yard etc.. A week later the court called me back and said they were willing to try this single parenting idea out if I was still interested. The court told me that they thought I might be a good influence for her seeings how I was single, raising children on my own, had started my own business & was going to college part time nights. He also told me I was the only person that responded to that ad. Other than them giving me a charge card to go buy her some clothes, it actually cost me more to keep her than the court paid me (but I wasn’t in it for the money anyways – at first I didn’t even know that they would pay me a small amount to help with her needs). To make a long story short, I got her back in school (she got on the honor roll), she got off all drugs (& was even trying to help her boyfriend get off heroin). In 3 months, her & I had to go before the judge again as a follow up. The judge could not believe she was the same girl. He said (excuse the language) ” what in the hell did you do to her?” I said (excuse the language) “I didn’t do a damn thing except give her love.” At 6 months, she asked me to adopt her. I told her if that is really what she wanted, then yes I would, but first we would have to get both of her parents to sign off on her (& that that would probably break their hearts – which I knew was a lie) but if the only reason she wanted that was so that she’d always have a home, that that was not necessary. I told her my home would always be her home and then she said that was fine. I referred to her as my daughter whenever I introduced her to anyone (she looked a lot like me anyways), and within a week she was calling me mom. There was only 10 yrs. between us in age and people would ask “how can you have a daughter that old?” It probably wasn’t appropriate but I just said “oh I started young”; it made her feel more part of the family because I never referred to her as my “foster” daughter. I was more concerned with her feelings than what people might think about me. Just before her 18th birthday the court thought it was time for her to try it on her own. They got her an apartment to live on her own & gave her a job at a state park (it was too soon). We lost touch for a few years, I had remarried & she was getting married & wanted me to be in her wedding (the old boyfriend had died of an overdose while trying to kick his addiction); I was in the hospital (just had a baby that morning) & couldn’t attend. We lost touch again till she had her first baby. Shortly after she had a 2nd baby & then I heard she was getting divorced but yet they all moved to Florida. There is a reason I am going further with the story. In Florida, she got back on drugs heavy. Her husband & kids came back to Michigan & left her there. One day she called him to come pick her up or she would be dead. He picked her up, she got herself clean again & stayed that way. Her husband & herself went on to take 3 sisters through the foster care system into their home, which they eventually adopted all three. So everything has come full circle. Her & husband are now trying to buy an old church up north and turn it into a homeless shelter for the needy. I am now 68 & she is 58 and we stay close now. I am so proud of her, she deserves all the credit. She was just wanting someone to love her & to show they really cared about her. I partly blame the court for taking her away too soon, she was not ready to be on her own, for the life of me I don’t know why they didn’t just leave her with me. it was a very rewarding experience for me too. The court did recontact about 10 yrs later and wanted me to take on a boy. I said I couldn’t do it at that time (I didn’t want to take a chance with it being a boy that if he ever got mad at me all he’d have to say to the court was that I abused him or something and then I’d be in trouble for something that never happened.) I wish I was younger, I’d might have tried it again. So it doesn’t take a lot to do this if your interested in truly trying to help give a child hope, love & stability. I didn’t have anyone helping me, no church, no parents, no neighborhood, no support group, no one to help me with anything, I suppose now days they do though, so it is possible to do it on your own. I hope this helps someone make their decision on whether to be a foster parent or not. I truly believe there are thousands of kids out there that by no choice of their own is missing/wanting love and companionship & are left alone in this world. They feel they have no one looking out for them. So if you have a big heart, why not share it, it could make a huge difference in a child’s life. Put yourself in their shoes. Good luck. ( I don’t check that email very often anymore but if you have any questions you can private message me on fb at Linda VanBlaricum Cinader.)

  14. Hello Everyone,
    To start with you are all such incredible people and Hod bless you all.
    I am 21 and from a large family(7 kids) and have been working with kids my entire life in childcare or as a nanny etc. I have always dreamed of fostering to be there and provide love for the children who need it most.
    My dilema though is that I am single and want to be a stay at home foster carer. Have any of you somehow managed this?
    Is there a way to be a stay at home foster parent who can give all their time and effort to the wellbeing of these children?

    • Rachel, in my state you have to be able to financially provide for yourself without the income you’d receive fostering in order to be licensed as a foster parent. So I think the biggest obstacle you’d face would be figuring out how to financially provide for yourself while at home. As a work from home mom, I know it’s possible to have an income you receive while at home with your kids, but you’d need to figure out how to make that work before pursuing foster care if your goal was to be able to stay home with the kids. Being a licensed in-home daycare might be an option. Hope that helps!

  15. I would like to address the authors of both this article and comments..
    For those of you who are single women, do you mind telling me your ages? I am 26, so I’m still young and I know it may be harder with my age. I just have such a love and a passion for children. I do have a full time job working in a classroom working with autistic students. I would gladly help children with autism or downs syndrome, as well as kids through junior high. As for fostering high schoolers (ages 15, 16,17) I have a worry that respect may be an issue as I’d be less than ten years older.

    I would love some thoughts on this. I have a steady job, a comfortable three bedroom home, and lots of love to give!

  16. What an offensively hierarchical article. Every situation and family has its own unique structure and challenges/gifts. I’m in the process of becoming a single foster parent, and to categorically state that I would provide an inferior home to a two-parent home is offensive and false. It is my hope to foster an infant, baby or child and adopt if a TPR takes place. It wasn’t my plan to be 40 and single, but it’s where life and God took me.

    Clearly you feel you can speak on the subject as an adoptive home, but if you’re a two-parent home why do you have this insecure need to preach from a place of inferiority or superiority to others?

    I was raised in a two-parent home with two professional patents, they had a terrible, unhappy marriage and a bitter divorce, and then our family structure changed. I wouldn’t say my parents were the best or most available parents by any means when going through these troubles with one another.

    And on the flip side, many single parents now date- you can see them on dating websites- and may get married later, whether they are bio parents with a divorce under their belt, or some other structure. In fact,I know a woman personally who fostered-to-adopt, and met her now-husband when her daughter was a toddler.

    I also find it really preachy to warn people not to foster to fulfill their own sense of family. OF COURSE people foster, adopt and have bio children to fulfill their own sense of family life. AND IT’S OKAY!! Guess what, feeling called by God, having a vision of your own family life, and being a great and attentive parent are not mutually exclusive needs.

    I’m far more heartened by some of the comments under your post, than by your post itself. I hope other women who stumble on this article will have a chance to read mine and realize they don’t have to internalize these kinds of not-so-subtle judgements and hierarchies.

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