This post is the last in a series of guests posts about being a single foster parent. The rest of the series includes posts about what people wish they had known before becoming a single foster parent, the benefits of single foster parenting, the struggles of single foster parenting, and how to balance a career and foster parenting. To finish up the series, I wanted to know what misconceptions these foster parents commonly hear. As someone who often answers questions from potential foster parents, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t adding to the incorrect stereotypes they’re having to deal with. Reading their answers reminded me that I should speak more openly about the NEED for single foster parents and make sure people know you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be able to care for a child from trauma.
If you have additional questions you think would be worth addressing in a series like this, feel free to email me about them!
(I have done some minor editing as needed, but I haven’t changed any of the content.)
What is the biggest misconception about single foster parents?
-As a single parent the biggest misconception I held was that I had to be able to do it all and that asking for help would be seen as weakness. I know this is not truth and that it is actually healthy to acknowledge the places I need extra supports and ask for that support. I think there is also a misconception out there that single parents can be viewed as a less desirable placement option. I am privileged to know several single parents who are sought out for placement because of their abilities to work with behaviors and provide an environment where children thrive. The other advice I would offer to single persons thinking about foster care is to carefully consider placement preferences and realistic expectations for what you are able to work with in regards to age, quantity, behaviors and health needs. Also self-care is REALLY important, it is also the first thing to be neglected when caring for others. I am not able to be the parent that I want to be, if my physical, emotional and spiritual energy is tapped out.- Jami, Nebraska, 4 years, 6 kids
-I haven’t received this a lot personally, but I think a big misconception is that a single person is fostering from a place of deficit – i.e., the person was lonely or desperate for children so became a foster parent. I say this because a few other older single women have asked me about fostering as a way to become a mom. I think it’s possible some people do sign up for that reason, but if they do, I can’t imagine how they survive. I believe most people, single or otherwise, sign up out of an abundance of love to give rather than a need to receive.- Heather, North Carolina, 1 year, 2 kids
–I think the biggest thing I heard (that I wished I didn’t) was that I was some sort of super human person for being able to manage it all. I felt like because I was a single foster parent people put me on a pedestal. There are a lot of single plarents who do the same time and more every day. I guess I just want people to understand that most people I know who foster do it because they enjoy it. I may not enjoy every aspect of it, but I do enjoy fostering. That is all. I really enjoy doing what I do. Some days are easier than other but all days are rewarding.- Becky, Nebraska, 5 years, 6 kids
-The truth is, I did this with a goal of adoption and it ripped my heart out each time I strapped a child into a car seat and they were driven away to something uncertain– perhaps more of what brought them to my arms in the first place. And I’m not braver, or stronger, or more resilient than anyone else, and don’t deserve any medals. These children are the ones that are brave, and resilient and strong– who have faced their lives being torn apart through no faults of their own. I finally found peace in knowing that the care and love I offered was needed at that moment and time and hopefully, something I provided will always remain with them. And I was always the lucky one, receiving from them far more than I gave.- Suzanne, Texas, 6 1/2 years, 11 children
-The biggest misconception about single foster parents is that “You can’t be single and foster or adopt.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen that or been asked about it. You can absolutely foster and adopt as a single person as long as you have the qualifications! I try and clear that “myth” up any chance I get, imagine the homes we could have for these vulnerable children if people knew this!- Tara, New Mexico, 2 years, 4 kids
-I think the biggest misconception about single foster parents is that we don’t have as much love to give, or can provide as stable of an environment as a 2 parent home. I can see both sides of this, but also firmly believe that I have enough love to give to these kids. And for those who may need some one on one time with a male, there are plenty of awesome uncles and a couple of grandpas who gladly step up to the plate every time. I knew it took a village before I started foster care, but I believe it so much more now. I am very thankful that even though my life might not have turned out exactly the way I had planned, it’s still beautiful. God has taken care of my every need, every step of the way.- Tami, Nebraska 4 years, 12 kids
-Single people can’t foster or adopt (not true! And I have a whole network of supporters who are also single foster parents)- Kimberly, Pennsylvania, 4 years, 4 kids
-I am not sure about misperceptions of single foster parents in general. My adopted son happens to look a lot like me, so people often assume that I gave birth to him– that there is a father in the picture.- Rene, Missouri, 4 years, 5 kids
-The biggest misconception about single foster parenting is that it can’t be done. I’ve known some people who honestly didn’t think it was possible (allowed), and others that didn’t think they’d be up for the challenge. Fostering certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but with the right support network, it can be a fulfilling way to spend your single years and a beautiful way to become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being.- Jennifer, Georgia, 1 year, 1 child
-We aren’t super heroes. We are the same as you. God may have called us to a different story than you, but we are still like you. We are not saints. We get frustrated. We get worn. We get discouraged. We lose our tempers. We have to ask for grace and forgiveness—just like you.- Faith, Georgia, 1 year, 1 child
-I think it’s a lot of the common misconceptions with foster care, “Can you not have children?” etc, but I think the most common misconception is that you CAN be single and a foster parent!- Stephanie, Nebraska, 3 years, 3 kids
-That we are strong, I don’t think we possess anything special we simply look past the hurdles and just do it. I believe the excuses to not do it will always be there. The reality is that they need us, 450,000 children in our nation, every state, every age, gender and income level, there is no “normal” foster parent. My heart breaks often as it should, these kids deserve to have someone loving them enough to have hearts break. We are not strong, just willing.- Jules, Iowa, 3 years, 10 kids
-The state doesn’t care what your marital status is when you go to get licensed. There are lots of single women who are foster care providers.- Holly, Missouri, 1 year, 3 kids
-You are doing it for the money, you have never parented before, you have bad children and want kids worse to make your kids look normal, you are just a kid hotel, no matter how much you do it isn’t going to be accepted by the youth. It’s a hard thankless job. Don’t expect thanks from the kids, the workers, especially not the family. You just have to remember that you are trying to influence and not all kids can be or want help.- Dave, California, 5 years, 12 kids
-I doubt this misconception is unique to single foster parents, but it might be exaggerated because people are so surprised that I’ve taken it on. People have extreme responses and make assumptions that are well meaning but uncomfortable. Some are just effusively nice about how I must be such a good person. Others are way more invasive about what that means about my personal life and my desire/inability to find a partner first (Did you think about just getting a sperm donor?). I even had someone congratulate me when my kiddo was moved to a relative placement, because they thought I would be happy to have more free time.- Laura, Washington, 1 year, 1 child
-Single parents are in this for the money. That makes me laugh – if I actually kept track the state owes me a lot of money! haha That being a single parent is easier since you only have yourself and the children to worry about. Some days yes, but when you have gone a week with no sleep because you are the only one to get up and take care of a baby, those days are very hard. You never get a break, you take the kids everywhere you go, shopping, errands, going to the bathroom. There is no alone time and being a single parent, chances are you can’t afford to always pay a sitter. So doing it alone isn’t always the easiest.- Linda, Illinois, 4 years, 2 kids
-I think people have a misconception that either they won’t be good parents, or that they won’t be able to work and care for a foster child. The truth is that there ARE resources to make it possible, and support and training. I would recommend starting with school-aged kids, because scheduling is easier. Also, some kids have had trauma from their mother or father, so they would *prefer* to spend some time in a single parent house where their issues won’t be triggered as much. Sometimes, total one-to-one attention can be healing. So just because you are single doesn’t mean you are inadequate or half as good. Sometimes, God uses your singleness to be exactly what your child needs.- Adria, California, 2 years, 8 kids
-Biggest misconception is that I am superwoman. I am not. I AM A MOM.- Anne, New York, 15 years, 30 kids