The holiday season is typically a special time of year when families and loved ones spend quality time together and create lasting memories.
While some children may be concerned that they will not get all the gifts on their wish list this year, there are far too many children in our area who worry about something much greater: whether they will have the love and support of a foster or adoptive family.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of children in foster care nationwide has decreased by 23 percent over the last decade. While this is certainly a positive trend, it is, unfortunately, not what we’re seeing on a local level. In our region, we continue to see increases in the number of children in need of a loving home. As a community, we must come together to reduce this number by giving the best gift of all — the love of a family — to children, adolescents and teenagers who desperately need support and stability in their lives.
Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is an important and life-changing decision that many are hesitant to make because of preconceived notions, misinformation or a general lack of understanding about what the role entails. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for misperceptions surrounding adoption and foster care to deter people who would be wonderful role models and support systems for children in need.
Some of these misconceptions include:
1. Foster parents and families must be perfect.
Of course, there is no such thing as a “perfect” individual or family, but some people wrongly assume that this somehow changes if you consider bringing another family member into the mix. The major requirement to being a great foster parent is a willingness to open your heart and home and accept individuals for who they are. Being perfect is not a prerequisite, but having the capacity to love someone unconditionally and the desire to help them have a better life is essential.
2. Foster parenting is expensive.
Becoming a foster parent is about being a support system for children who are in need of a nurturing family — not buying them everything they’ve ever wanted. Children need emotional support, stability and guidance, which are all things money can’t buy. As such, you don’t have to make a fortune to make a lasting difference in a child’s life. There also are a number of agencies that offer loans, grants and financial assistance to help foster parents support a child.
3. Foster children are troubled.
Nearly 50 percent of Americans believe children are in foster care because they committed a crime. This simply isn’t true. It is often true that many have had difficult lives, and they may have trouble trusting others or have attachment problems. In addition, they may feel sadness, confusion or guilt over what they have experienced, such as neglect, abuse or abandonment. But, at the heart of it all, they are simply children who need love and stability. A loving foster or adoptive home can begin the road to healing from the pain of the past.
This holiday season [and throughout the year], I encourage everyone in our community to consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent for a child or group of siblings. You can provide children in our area with unlimited opportunities to live a better and more fulfilling life and set them on the path to a bright future.
Local agencies like Centerstone can help connect you with children, adolescents and teens who greatly need your love, companionship and guidance. For more information on how you can get involved and have a lasting impact on a child through foster parenting or adoption, call Centerstone at 423-508-5183.
(About the writer: Carol Cox is the program manager for Centerstone’s Therapeutic Foster Care Program which provides foster care, case management and therapy for children and teenagers in state custody. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)