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Monica Beere: The myth of the perfect foster parent

Monica Beere • Updated May 4, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Seven years. Seven long years. 

This is the average amount of time it takes for most people to make the decision to become foster parents. When I ask families to pinpoint when they first considered becoming foster parents, the response usually isn’t easily identifiable because families have been thinking about it for such a long time.  While it’s important to carefully consider if fostering is the right step for you and your family, I find that there is often a feeling of inadequacy that makes potential foster parents hesitate.  

Second guessing and self-doubt can play a large role in preventing potential foster parents wanting to move forward with accepting a foster child.  However, the unfortunate truth is that while the average person waits so many years to make a commitment to foster, children are coming into care every day in our community. While the need for foster parents is great, the hesitation to move forward is equally as high, which forces many children to be placed in a foster home outside of their communities. 

Why do so many families wait so long to become foster parents? The reason is a sense of inadequacy, a fear of the unknown and questioning their own ability; wanting to be the perfect foster parent. I know because I was one of those people.

Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation as described.  While you see the need to foster, the whole idea seems intimidating.  You may question if you are really ready to take on the responsibility of being a foster parent. What if you start fostering and realize you aren’t good enough?  What if you end up with a child that you cannot relate to or feel unequipped to help?  Sometimes we find ourselves buried in so many questions and self-doubt that it paralyzes us from wanting to move forward at all. 

I know and understand all of these questions and hesitations deeply because these were all the concerns I felt when I first started considering whether or not our family should accept the calling we felt placed on our lives to foster and adopt. Deep in my heart I knew that fostering children was something that I wanted to do. Yet with everything driving me to move forward, I felt hesitation to start the process of becoming a foster parent because I just didn’t know if I “had what it took.” 

Having a biological child already, I knew that I was a good mother and like so many other mothers out there- I had mastered the art of balancing a full time career, family and motherhood.  However, when it came to the idea of fostering, the thought stopped me right in my tracks. Suddenly, I called into question all of my confidence in being a parent when I started to consider whether or not I could care for someone else’s child. It wasn’t until a friend of mine finally stopped and asked me one day what was making me hesitate. I remember sharing with her that I just didn’t know if I had what it took to foster.  What if I fell in love with the child and had to give the child back? What if a child had special needs that I wasn’t equipped to handle? 

After giving numerous reasons as to why I felt I wasn’t good enough to foster and needed to wait awhile before committing to becoming a foster parent, I remember my friend asking me a very blunt but honest question. “You know you are a great mother to your daughter already, right?” Without hesitating I said “Of course!” She smiled. “You know you are a good mom already, so why do you feel you somehow need to be anything better than what you already are in order to foster a child?”  The question stung a little bit and I remember it took me a second to answer. She was right.  I never once questioned my ability, love or parenting skills when it came to my own child; so why was this any different? I realized that there were just as many “unknowns” of raising my own child and that this just went with the territory of being a parent.  It was then that I knew I wasn’t questioning my own ability to parent, but was hesitating because of the fear of the uncertainties centered around fostering.  

It was because of that conversation with my friend that my husband and I decided that we could no longer take a back seat and wait for the perfect time to foster a child. We were never going to be the perfect parents no matter how long we waited and there was no such thing as the perfect time. That was just the raw reality of it all and we knew the need was too great to hesitate any longer. 

I’ll admit, as we began to move forward in the process I was no longer in my comfort zone. Truthfully though, I no longer have a strong desire to go back to being comfortable. I knew the incredible need that our community had for foster parents and I knew I could no longer wait for a perfect time to foster. 

It had suddenly stopped being about myself and became everything about the children. I was now beginning to understand the heart of foster care and the heart of being a foster parent. 

Now, almost eight years later I have never looked back and regretted moving forward with fostering, and for my family adopting. So for those of you who may be going through similar questions and concerns that I went through, I want to encourage you to take a step of faith. Making the decision to become a foster parent may seem daunting at first. However, don’t wait for that perfect moment and the unrealistic idea that you have to be the perfect parent to foster. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Fostering will forever change your heart and the impact you can have on a child has to potential to change their life forever, as well as yours.

Monica Beere serves as a foster care recruiter for Monroe Harding, an organization that has helped children for 125 years. Learn more at monroeharding.org. 

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