Myths and Facts About Being a Foster Parent

So you wanna be a foster parent? Here's what you need to know.

There may be as many people who want to foster based on positive assumptions about the experience as those who steer clear due to a negative misconception. In the interest of getting the right people interested, here are some facts and myths about becoming a foster parent to teenagers:

Myth: There's gold in DCS placements.

Fact: The kids' expenses are covered, but that's all.

Case workers and agencies emphasize over and over that fostering kids is for those who feel called, not those who want help with the heating bill. In fact, prospective parents must demonstrate an ability to pay their household bills without the approximately $1,000 per month, tax-free, they'll receive as foster parents.

Myth: You'll feel pressure to adopt.

Fact: Temporary foster arrangements can come to an end

"Some people, when they hear ‘foster parent' they feel like they'd be obligated to take the child forever, but that is not the case," says Cindy Dodson of the Knoxville Florence Crittendon agency. "Foster parent arrangements can be designed to last for a finite period of time, though foster parents do have first option to adopt if they've fostered a child six months or more and they come up for adoption."

Myth: You have to be married, or a heterosexual couple

Fact: Singles and same-sex couples may foster

There is a federal regulation that if you are married, you have to be married at least for a year to foster. But, says Allen Krueger of FC, if you are living together and both people go through the classes, you can be foster parents as well, and this would include same-sex couples, depending on which outside providers you align with.

Myth: It takes too long to get qualified.

Fact: It's not overnight, but you can start pretty quickly.

With any agency, you have to take a training class called PATH, or Parents as Tender Healers, that is required by the state and be CPR- and First Aid-certified, and attend other classes like medicine administration and therapy. Says Krueger: "People can be done with this in a couple or three months. Once the home study is approved, someone starting class today could readily have the class complete and be ready to accept kids in May."

Myth: Only full-timers need apply

Fact: You can experiment.

Says Dodson: "You can work your way in by being a weekend respite foster home a weekend a month, or you might choose to be an emergency overnight home. That gives you the chance to decide, ‘Is this for me?' before you take it further."