Being a Foster Parent

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello community!

    My husband and I are considering becoming foster parents, and we’d love to hear other people’s experience with that journey. We do not have bio kids (long story), so a foster child would be the only child(ren) in our home. Thanks so much for anything you’re willing and open to sharing. And please let me know if you’re open to direct contact for a further conversation.


    My husband and I went through the training and certification process and started fostering a seven-year old in June. We're willing to talk with you directly about what we're learning.

    My husband and I have been foster parents to infants for a little over a year now. We went directly through Alameda County, which was a slow process but good so far. One child lived with us for 3 months and then went to live with aunts. Another child is living with us now. Feel free to DM me with any specific questions.

    Many years of foster parenting, if you want to talk, email me. We dealt with two different agencies and the county. ajanks at yahoo dot com

    I have never been a foster parent however I did work for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) as the Director of Case Management. The majority of the children served by the CASA program are in foster care at some point while they are dependents of the court. During my 10 year employment I became very familiar with the foster parent program at the county level as well as foster parents working with private Foster Family Agencies (FFAs). Being a foster parent is one of the most difficult jobs a person can do. You are asked to take care of someone else's child during an extremely emotionally challenging period in that child's life. The child may have just been removed from their parent's care or may possibly be coming to live with you after multiple failed placements. The children in the foster care system are emotionally fragile and most have trust issues. I have seen some foster parents become completely disheartened when their foster child exhibits difficult behaviors and aren't always as loving towards them as they had envisioned. Most of the families of dependent children are working on a reunification plan where the child may be returned to the family of origin's care. As a foster parent it is important that you never lose sight of that goal. Sometimes you may not agree with the court's decision to return a child to his or her parent's care. This can be extremely difficult for the foster parent. You are asked to assume the responsibilities of parenthood, including loving and nurturing the child without really having any legal rights. I have great admiration for those foster parents who are able to make a positive impact in the life of a child and then relinquish the child. I certainly encourage you to further explore your options as a foster parent as long as you are well aware of the challenges you may encounter. 

    Hello, we are foster-to-adopt parents. We were recently placed with a 5 month old. I'd be happy to talk with you about our experience so far. 

    Jamie (and Tef)

    tefjam2014 [at], (415) 509-1209

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Thinking about foster-adopt of bi-racial child

Jan 2011

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of researching the foster/adoption process in the Bay Area. We are a bi-racial couple and looking to foster/adopt an african american/bi-racial child and would be interested to hear other's experiences and hopefully gain some leads.

I think you will find wide-range of thoughts on this subject. My hope is that as you receive this information, you keep in mind the many variables in each situation. You have the prospective families (usually two adults) that each bring their own set of family history, which informs to a great degree how they experience this process. Then you have the child that is being adopted, again each child will have very specific needs, family history, and temperament, which must be considered. Last and certainly not least you have the Agency/Social Worker relationship that you are seeking to have as optimal as possible.

I've worked in this field for a number of years, and I think there's a tendency with adoption in general, and fost-adopt in particular, to hear one story and paint an entire picture. This is rather unfortunate, because there is so much about each of the above mentioned variable that's missed. It's a process, not easy, but not rocket science. You will have to trust people with your history, you will need to practice absolute honesty with yourself, and be absolutely committed to this way of growing your family.

I've seen amazing families go through this process, those who do really well, are prepared, have a support network, create a community with others who have adopted, and mostly seem to have a crazy amount of love to give.

I wish you much luck! a mom and adoption advocate

Check out AASK (Adopt A Special Kid) . We adopted our first son and are about to adopt our second son through them. I have no complaints. And generally speaking the process has been great for us. Our boys are amazing. We feel so lucky to have found them. If you want to dialog any more about the general fost/adopt process feel free to email. Felicia

Fostering at-risk infants

Nov 2010

I have just had my final home visit to be approved for fostering and am set to be approved pending a few documents I need to send. I have made it clear from the beginning that I want to contribute by taking in infants and preparing them for a new life. This includes drug withdrawal.

Now that I'm at the end I'm being told that there are few infants available. I love my social worker and feel that she's telling the truth but I don't feel that I could keep up with a toddler without easing into it and it wasn't my plan to get to that stage anyway.

I'd love to hear from others about their experiences in fostering. I will not be adopting because I'm already a grandmother and my youngest dd is 20, and that wouldn't be fair to the child.

I'd like to hear from successful adopters about the age of the infant you adopted and any other foster experiences out there whether foster/adopt or just fostering.

I'm in CoCo County. So far the foster program has been great. concerned foster mom-to-be

My experience with the foster care system and social workers is that you just need to hold on to what you said you can do. Why didn't they tell you when you originally applied and then went through training that what you said you were getting ready for was not available?

When we went through the training and homestudy, etc, we were clear that we would consider a child from 1-4 years old (we figured that everyone wanted babies). Once we were certified, the worker said toddlers were rare and we should consider taking siblings! We said we were willing to wait for the right match and didn't think we were ready for siblings (especially for our first placement).

Frankly, it felt like a bait-and-switch. We had been clear about what we were considering and no one said that wasn't likely until we had invested considerable time going through the whole process. It seemed like the person assigned to matching families just wanted a deal -- any deal to clear the case.

The upshot is that a situation will come along that will seem right to you. Don't get pressured into something else.

Once you have a foster kid, you'll have to advocate for them as well. anon

I applaud your dedication to helping a foster child and would like to add my experience taking on an at-risk child. I too told my social workers that I was looking to foster-to-adopt an infant who was healthy because I am a single parent and was certain I wouldn't be able to handle an at-risk infant. However, as you are finding, infants who are healthy are rare in the system. When I was approached to foster a 16 month old, with health problems (feeding tube, multiple medications, unable to walk, swallow on his own etc.), I surprised myself by even considering it.

While caring for him was difficult, I don't know that it was any worse than taking care of a healthy/younger child. I still had to wake up every few hours, either to feed or give meds. I still had to watch him closely, as you would any young one. I had to be aware of any signs that would show he was in danger due to his conditions, the same way you are vigilant about an infant. He was on a schedule, both for sleep and for feedings.

I suppose my response is that it is about the same, and if it is more work, please consider this: You will make a huge difference in this child's life! Loving care, at any age, makes a difference. But, as I can see with my son (yes I adopted him), every time he is uncomfortable, in pain, needs help -- and there is someone there to lovingly give tend to him -- well, that is a message that will stay with him for life. Someone cares.

My son is 3 going on 4 and is healthy, happy and thriving. I am convinced that the time we had together when he came to me made a huge difference in his physical and emotional health. I wish I would have gotten him sooner, but it is never too late to help a child.

Ask for help if you need it. The counties usually offer respite care, so schedule time in for breaks on a regular basis. In my experience the workers are very understanding and encourage taking advantage of respite care.

Thank you for considering doing this important work! Jennifer

Good for you, and thank you, from your community. I'd say don't give up on your original plan. There will be a baby, multiple babies for you, even if you have to wait for awhile. Taking on a toddler is harder, and if what you want is an infant, go for that. Keep in mind that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so call the social workers frequently. Good luck and thanks again.


Experiences with Foster Adoption?

March 2008

We are interested in adopting through the foster-adopt program, and would love to hear of recent experiences. We would prefer a younger child, 18 months or so, in part because we have 2 other children. How long has the process taken from the time you begin training? Have your adopted children had significant special needs? If you have older children, have there been unanticipated challenges with this adjustment? Thank you for any thoughts or advice! -hoping to adopt

Anyone interested in adopting children should look at the site: Children are listed for adoption not only in Alameda County but in several other counties in the state. It is great to see interested families because there are so many children and youth in need of loving homes. Kristie P

I adopted my 19 month old son, whom I brought home as a 1 wk old, thru foster care in alameda county. I recommend working with a private foster/adopt agency. I worked with A Better Way in berkeley and overall found them to be very good. A private agency is free and you get more money and services. You probably will also be matched more quickly since private agencies don't get paid til they place - but also be careful with this and don't feel you have to take the first kid they offer you, make sure you feel the child is one that you can handle and that you feel a real desire to potentially parent that child permanently. if you pass on a placement, don't worry, sadly, there are always more kids. getting a newborn or very young infant is possible, but a toddler is even more likely. The agency should help address issues with your birth kids and help you with adjustments for everyone. I recommend reading Attaching in Adoption to help you determine what you can handle. waiting out the legal stuff is hard, but about 90% of these kids stay and you can determine how much risk you want to take on. I think it's best to look upon the situation as really wanting to give a home to a child who really needs one and if there is an appropriate birth family placement, that could be okay, but the county should determine whether or not that is likely asap, the longer the child is in your home, regardless or non-parent, immediate birth family placement, the more likely he or she will stay. also meeting other foster to adopt parents really helps you to get support and advice from others in your shoes. in regards to other concerns voiced on this listserve regarding ''crackbabies'' - my child was born with certain potential ''challenges'' but he was healthy, and showed no signs of trouble at birth. He is on track developmentally, he is very smart, happy, well-adjusted, very bonded and super cute. if you were to see him on the playground you would not know he was a former foster kid. adopting him thru foster care, though difficult for me at times, was the best thing I ever did. I provided him with a safe, calm ,loving home where he was not aware of all the turmoil going on around him about his future and now he will stay. feel free to contact me direct if you want other info. d

Considering foster-adopt but concerned about family dynamics

August 2006

I'm a stay-at-home-mom with a 4-year-old daughter & a husband who is highly devoted to our family, but whose work requires him to be gone 4 days per week. We are seriously considering adopting a child (or perhaps siblings) through the foster care system.

We have found the information provided on the BPN site to be helpful & have also spoken with others who have gone through the Foster-to-Adoption process.

But we specifically wonder if anyone has dealt with the specific challenges that we face:

(1) Dynamics with our existing biological daughter: We're concerned about our daughter feeling jealous; getting attached to a prospective sibling who is later placed with their biological family; having to share her room for now; etc.

(2) My husband working so far away: It\'2s hard, but we've adjusted successfully & hope the situation will eventually change. But for now, he leaves Monday morning & returns late Thursday night. I am aware that the Fost-Adopt process requires many hours of meetings, paperwork, classes, etc. Can we do some of this on weekends?

(3) Dynamics with grandparents & relatives: We\x92re close with them & they all adore our daughter. But they live far away. Nonetheless, we\x92re concerned that they will favor our biological daughter over any foster or adoptive children.

We do have a lot to offer: We\x92re both educated professionals; my husband makes a good income; we\x92re stable & own our own home; we enjoy parenting & I have experience working with young children as a volunteer preschool classroom aide. We\x92re excited about adopting through the foster care system. But we also want to be well informed & prepared & to make sure that everyone involved winds up as happy & well-adjusted as possible \x96 including ourselves as parents.

Thank you. We will be extremely grateful for any perspectives on the issues we\x92ve described Prospective Fost-Adopt Mom

My husband and I adopted 2 girls, full biological sisters, ages 5 and 1, through the Alameda County fost-adopt program. We had a wonderful experience with the training, home study personnel, and case workers. We have no biological children of our own. My husband works long weeks and monthly goes out of town for work for about a week at a time. Our family is all out of state. I'll try to answer your questions but feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to talk more. My Master's is in Counseling and I have worked with children and families in the fost-adopt system for about 12 years.

1. Trainers should be able to help you with this dynamic; part of the course work. Communication is vital. Could write a book in answer to your question. Jealousy is a natural part of the transition, I believe, but as things adjust and accomodate it should subside to normal sibling rivalry/dynamics.

2. Time demands. We took the training on consequtive Saturdays for 8 weeks in the mornings. Initial paperwork needs some devoted time to but after you're fost-adopt parent, there's almost nothing. CPR/First Aid needs to be current, classes thru Red Cross offered on weekends. You need 8 hrs of CEU's per year (both you and spouse) which can be at a site or some on- line training or parenting videos.

3.Your family will probably surprise you with their willingness to love your adopted child as your biological. As any relationship, they will have to get to know him/her and the more time they spend together and communicate (e-mail, pictures, phone calls, etc), the bonding process comes along nicely. You can lay the groundwork for this by talking to them about the fact that you're considering adoption and discuss their thoughts and feelings prior to taking classes. Lots more ideas if you'd like to e-mail me please feel free. Best of luck! G McGuire

I work in foster-to-adoption for and agency in Berkeley. I think it is really great you are considering this and being so thoughtful about it. I hope I can remember all of your concerns, but if I don't address any please e-mail me.

When it comes to your daughter she would probably feel jealous of a new child regardless of how that child came to be in your home. I am sure that your duaghter has already experienced friends or family moving away. Although it would be hard it the child had to leave I think she would be able to cope and hopefully be happy for the child that he/she is able to be with his/her birth family.

Your freinds/family may treat a non-birth family the same as your birth daughter, but they will probably follow your lead. You will need to feel confident and comfortable enough to tell them when they are being insensitive or inappropriate. More than likely they will come to view the child as part of the family.

When it comes to your husband being away four days a week I worry for two reasons. 1) children in foster care have often experienced many losses and disruptions. Intially they might worry that he won't come back or they drove him away. It would be very important that he be able to take several weeks of leave to be home when a child is intially placed. 2) Parenting is hard, even your birth children. When your husband is away you would be the only parent and a lot would be expected of you. Many of are parents are single mothers and seem to manage well. It is important that you figure out who your support people will be when your husband is not home. As for the paperwork/training, the agency I work for offers the required training over three Saturdays and we also offer fingerprinting and cpr/1st aid training on some Saturdays. It is certainly doable.

I hope this was helpful, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or at work. I hope you pursue this journey. I have known many families who have found great reward and joy. If you get this before 8/19 I can get you an invitation to our annual picnic where you can meet foster-to-adopt families. Sarah

We are in the middle of a fost adopt placement right now - we have a 9 year old biological daughter and are adopting a 4 year boy. It took us a long time to find a good match for our family, and now we are in that challenging phase of the kids jockeying for attention, toys, and space.

In hindsite, I would suggest that you: 1. Be proactive about finding an agency that you are comfortable with. There are a number of private nonprofit agencies in the East Bay (FamilyBuilders, Adopt A Special Kid, A Better Way) that serve this purpose and offer training and matching. 2. Plan the age separation between your two children - I suggest 2 years or more. Less than 2 years can create an unfair dynamic, as they are not competing on even ground. 3. Consider the needs of raising a child who is not your ethnicity. It is a huge reponsibility to prepare a child to feel included in a culture that is not shared by their immediate family.

Fortunately, there are support organizations like PACT and IPride who help blended families like ours. 4. Learn all you can about the special needs of kids who have been neglected. There are many first person narratives available which explain the kinds of behavior you can expect - you need to understand what problems can likely be overcome once the child feels secure (1-2 years) and others which may have more serious results. 5. Don't wait too long! Start now, because the longer you wait the more the upset will be for your daughter when her little brother or sister arrives. It takes 3-6 months minimum to go thru the home study/training/ CPR etc. and then you could be matched quickly or it could take years, as it did for us.

There are many challenges in this process, and it takes perseverance and much inner strength, plus a willingness to open your lives to the social workers. You will be exposed to a shameful side of our society: the tragic results of child abuse and neglect. But you will be joining a community of blended families who support eachother and know they are doing something big, something essential, to help alleviate a child's suffering and loss. Kristin

Please contact AASK in Oakland. They are a wonderful agency that facilitates fost/adopt placements. Fost/Adopt is a wonderful way to build a family. AASK will help you think about what is realistic given your family situation Happy Family through Fost/Adopt

I asked my brother to weigh in, since he's living it. He says: We have adopted four children and have a biological daughter who came first. So I'll address what I can:

1) I guess just remember that kids become siblings, sometimes through child birth and sometimes through adoption. If you're concerned about her feelings, ask her is she has any! Chances are you can ride the tide of excitement over getting a sibling. Just imagine if you became pregnant...what would you say? Say that!

2)My other half is a pilot and is away for days at a time. I have found that having other children has alleviated a lot of the constant attention activities that an only child has. It is my sense that the foster system is so in need that they will find a way to work with your schedule. I ended up being the point person for a lot of the communication...with email - almost everything is possible!

3)If your family members are favoring your biological daughter over your adopted children then you need to do more footwork with them laying the ground rules. ANd also, in their defense, a bit of that is natural. It's been several years now since we adopted our first 2 kids...whatever weirdness that ever existed is gone. And it was non-existant when we adopted the younger 2. But if it ever crops's THEIR issue, not yours. If it goes so far that the children become aware of favoritism then you need to insist on stricter ground rules for your relatives!

PLEASE UNDERSTAND: if you are adopting through the foster care system...this is a huge government-run agency. Many of the practices seem to work against the child's best interest. Commit yourself to the process, and understand that the major feelings of chaos are going to come from dealing with the system, not from the kids. There are transition issues that you should take classes for...but there is no class that will prepare you for taking a child you have bonded with and releasing them for a visit with a birth parent who will resent you and will have legal rights over you until the child is legally free. Seriously prepare yourself and ask lots of foster parents about the process. It's daunting...the children are a snap by comparison. anon

We're considering becoming foster parents - advice?

Jan. 2005

Does anyone have any experience with being a foster parent in Alameda County? My husband and I are considering it. We have a son who is 21 months old as well. I am interested to know how the experience may affect my son and our family life. Any input is appreciated.

We went through the Alameda County fost-adopt process. Extremeley key for us was the MAPP (model approach to ?p? parenting) class - 10 weeks, saturday classes. I thought I'd just ''snow'' the teachers and jump through the hoops, but I learned so much that when it was over, I wanted more. And when the kids came, after the honeymoon period was over, what I'd learned became emormously helpful in enduring the storms, and creatively helping the kids heal. We were lucky to encounter only wise, devoted, smart people at Alameda system. Hope the same for you. It's a huge commitment. anon

One suggestion I would make would be to look at a private foster care agency. I used to work for Alternative Family Services (offices in San Francisco and Oakland, although they work all over the area). I thought it was a terrific agency - families get lots of support and help and they provide extensive services for the kids. They do a lot of long term foster care as well, so you might have a child with you for an extensive period of time. The reimbursement rate for foster families is also higher than the county rates. I think being a foster parent can be an extraordinary experience. I hope it works out for you. Here is Alternative Family Service's 800 number: (800) 300-1022. Susan