Department of Family Services – Children and Families

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035

Oriane Eriksen,

Foster Family New – Foster Care Myths

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There are a lot of misconceptions about foster care, foster parents, and the children and families involved. Each issue of Foster Family News contains a myth that will be clarified for those interested in supporting foster care. Check out the myths and facts that have been in previous issues.

1. Myth: You can’t be single.

Fact: No matter your marital status, you can be a foster parent to a child in need. Single, divorced and married (including LGBTQ couples) people are all welcome!

2. Myth: Foster kids are unfixable.

Fact: Children are resilient. They can bounce back from trauma. Foster Parents can make a difference in the life of a child by providing love, structure, support, and a caring environment.

3. Myth: I can’t foster, I would get too attached.

Fact: Instead of letting the fear of getting too attached deter potential foster parents, be motivated by the fear that these kids may never feel truly attached to someone. Children in foster care need a person who cares deeply for them and who will get attached, regardless of their experiences or behaviors.

4. Myth: You need to own your home.

Fact: Foster parents can either own or rent. The home must have adequate bedroom space for the children. Each child must have their own bed.

5. Myth: Children in foster care can't do normal things.

Fact: With training (and in some cases) collaboration with social workers, foster parents can make decisions related to vacations, babysitters, playing sports, allowing teens to work part-time or get a driver’s license.

6. Myth: Teenagers are the most difficult to foster.

Fact: Every child in foster care has experienced some trauma, and brings strengths, abilities, and challenges regardless of age. With training (and in some cases) collaboration with social workers, foster parents become equipped to bring out those strengths in character and help children of all ages recover from past trauma. Being in an environment with loving foster parents who nurture a teen's coping skills and resilience can help them to recover, thrive, and move forward in life. Success in school, jobs, community activities and beyond become a reality. 

7. Myth: You can’t work full time.

Fact: Many foster parents work outside the home. There is Child Care assistance available to help defray the costs.

8. Myth: You must be a parent.

Fact: Many foster parents do not have children. Regardless of your parenting experience, caring for children who have experienced trauma is made easier if you have the right training. Our department provides ongoing resources and training opportunities to help prospective foster (and adoptive) parents become comfortable.

9: Myth: Foster parents are responsible for providing medical insurance for children in foster care.

Fact: Foster parents do not have to provide medical insurance. Children in foster care receive coverage through the state for all medical, dental, and mental health care needs.

10. Myth: Foster families can't have pets.

Fact: Many foster families have pets. Just be able to provide proof of current vaccinations for all domesticated animals. Many children in foster care respond well to pets. Pets can be a source of comfort and affection to a child who has experienced trauma. 

11. Myth: Foster parents can’t be over 50 years old.

Fact: There is no ideal age to become a foster parent, but you must be at least 18 years old. Foster families come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and stages. In fact, many foster parents find that taking care of children helps keep them young. What matters most is a willingness to commit to parenthood. 

12. Myth: I could never do what other foster parents do.

Fact: Don’t make a quick judgment before finding out more about foster care and the supports that are available to help foster parents. While many foster parents are amazing, they also have a community that walks alongside them. Foster parents get help from other members of the treatment team – caseworkers, therapists, and other foster parents, friends, and family members. Being a foster parent requires some sacrifices, to be sure, but most foster parents consider it worth it to help a child overcome trauma, heal and succeed.

13. Myth: DFS wants to remove children.

Fact: Unfortunately, this is often the perception held by the biological family of a child in foster care, and sometimes the negative stereotype that plays out in the media. In Fairfax County in 2021, more than 2,600 children were involved with Child Protective Services, however, only 83 children entered foster care in that time period. 

The Department of Family Services’ Children, Youth and Families Division believes in using the most preventive, least restrictive interventions first. When necessary, to protect a child’s physical or emotional safety, DFS uses more intensive interventions, such as court action to initiate foster care and kinship relative placements. 

If a child is removed, reunification with their birth family is set forth as the priority by DFS. A treatment plan is developed by a caseworker on behalf of the state to be followed by the biological parents. DFS partners with families to serve as an intentional and continuous effort to ensure engagement and meaningful involvement. 

Based on the progression and performance of the parent(s) and their ability to make the changes required by the state, the child will either return home once it is deemed safe or, when all other options have been exhausted, the parental rights will be terminated. Other permanency options such as adoption are available at that point. 

14. Myth: Parenting a foster child could hurt your children.

Fact: Whether you’re fostering, adopting, having a new biological child or blending families together through marriage, adding a child(ren) to your home will change your family’s dynamics. That is to be expected. Sibling rivalries could emerge from feelings of being “replaced” or their unfamiliarity with having to share a parent's attention. 

In the beginning it may seem like these adjustments are overwhelming. But children are adaptable, and though it might take some time, hang in there. Over time, most parents find that the lessons learned from these experiences ultimately have positive effects on their children.

Children often become less selfish, more flexible, caring, and empathetic, and more willing to share as a result of growing up in a home with children in foster care. 

Being part of a foster family helps kids learn valuable life lessons and it encourages them to hone lifelong skills in hospitality and acceptance.

15. Myth: You can’t foster if you've had a difficult time in your life.

Fact: Everyone faces challenges. What’s important is how you handle and overcome individual challenges. An essential part of foster parent training is exploring past experiences and learning how they may impact you as a foster parent. It’s important to be able to model to children in foster care healthy ways to process and rebound from trauma. This can even extend to situations where individuals who were in a foster care placement as a child become mentors or foster parents themselves.

(go to Foster Family News current issue or archive)

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