The 5 Fears That Attack Foster Parents The Most

One of the most frequent questions we hear from people who are considering foster care is, “I’m just afraid that….” We understand because we’ve been in that trench. But for different reasons than you might expect.

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We had already grown accustomed to judgment, stare downs, and the typical passive-aggressive comments. Heck, in our first 2 years of foster parenting alone, we received our fair-share. Par for the course as far as we were concerned. We had long since moved past the fear of that. In a weird sort-of-way we embraced it as normal.

Our fear was in the form of a phone call….a knock on the door….a summons to appear.

Someone once told us, in the early stages of our foster parenting journey, that “It was not a matter of if you’d be investigated by DCS…it was a matter of when you’d be investigated by DCS.” We shivered at the thought. Mostly because we were rule followers, law-abiding citizens, always towing the line, and always obeying authority. That was just one of our fears.

We also feared our own attachment, and the thought of having to let go when the child placed in our care went home to his or her birth parents. We did receive phone calls saying that they’d found a great aunt so and so living in Virginia who is ready to take the children. We did become attached, and it devastated us to say goodbye. Oh, and we were investigated….twice!

Your fear is real. Can I just say that? If for nothing else to let you, who may be reading this and feeling afraid, know that you’re not alone? Call it a validation of your emotions if you will. Your fear is real, and it is far greater than anything material, or appearance-related.  

When Fear Attacks.

It’s a deep-seeded panic, if you will. It’s looking over your shoulder, fearing that a case-manager may think the bruise on your foster son’s arm was due to something you did to him and not the fact that he’s a boy who loves to romp and play in a pile of leaves. It’s the worry that once you decide to adopt the children in your care a birth relative will suddenly materialize and want them. In some respects, it’s beyond anything traditional parents will never understand:

  1. The FEAR of being investigated. It’s always looming in your mind, and has been since the day you stepped into the training classes to receive your license. The horror stories stay affixed to your psyche and thus, you are constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for the shoe to drop. We know. And we don’t blame you for being a little paranoid. Back when we were still licensed, we knew that every conversation we had outside of the courtroom may be noted, and that even if a doctor told us to care for the child a certain way, it could be spun negatively by DCS.
  2. The FEAR that someone would accuse us of something we didn’t do. When we were still fostering we dealt with many meltdowns and public tantrums. Often times, we would quickly evacuate the premises, saying nothing. There was a distinct reason for this. In this world, people sling accusations freely. There were so many years we were terrified to go out in public. We wanted to stop our son from saying foul words or trying to harm himself or others, but we also knew that many eyes were upon us and most of them did not understand the trauma our child had gone through. Frankly, we feared being accused of causing his out-of-control behavior.
  3. The FEAR that we would lose our children. Back to being investigated for a moment. We also had this fear that someone would show up and remove our children who were permanently a part of our family because of something the children in our care would say or do. That’s why we were often a bit neurotic over everything. We obsessively covered our tale ends to ensure that our family was safe and that no one would suddenly show up.
  4. The FEAR that we will get too attached. It’s not that we didn’t want to attach ourselves to the children who we cared for, it’s just that we were told repeatedly it wouldn’t last. “They’ll only be with you for a weekend….a few weeks….a month at most.” We heard this over and over so it was just natural for us to see ourselves as….temporary. In the beginning we hesitated to allow the children in our care to call us ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’ because we knew us. Our hearts would go full-throttle into parenthood. That’s why we became foster parents in the first place. One of the worst feelings was to have a child stay longer than expected, our hearts attached, and then suddenly, the child was gone.
  5. The FEAR that our adopted or biological children will be harmed. To be honest, this was the least of our worries when we were still fostering. In fact, it only occurred once or twice. But we know many who have gone through this so we want to acknowledge it. You take on a lot of risk by intentionally bringing a child from a difficult situation into your home.

Fighting To Overcome Fear.

To read a list like this may be disheartening in a way, but it may also be confirming. At least you know you aren’t alone, nor crazy. But really, considering the enormity of fear, and reading a list like this makes a person wonder: Is foster care worth it? With all of our hearts we say, yes! Absolutely. And here’s why…

As a human being, you’re hard-wired to love, and love deeply. It’s in your make-up as a person. Fear is also something that tends to be a part of your life, even if you don’t want it to be. So, knowing how true this is, and knowing that fear is going to always hang around, jump in. Give yourself fully to the children you care for. Don’t allow fear to dictate your life or control your emotions. Life’s too short for that. Yes, you will become attached, and, yes it will hurt to say goodbye to a child who returns home. But isn’t that a natural part of human life? Isn’t goodbye and change all part of this great adventure?

Question: Current or former foster parents, have we forgotten anything? What would you add to this list of common fears? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • price.rebecca

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  • Carolyn Southworth

    This fear never really goes away. As a parent stuck somewhere between foster parenting and adoptive parenting, the reality is that this ALWAYS is in your mind. Thanks for bringing it up so that people can understand that they are not alone.

    • Carolyn, it’s my pleasure. This needs voice.

  • Erin Long

    I have had all of these fears, but the biggest one by far for me is fear for the children if they go back to an unsafe environment. I’ve had to really learn to trust God with their futures!

    • Erin, yes, absolutely. This is a fear we’ve had as well. Thanks for your comment!

  • Melanie

    Living in fear I think is part of being a parent, but I think it grows expedenitually as a Foster & Adoptive Parent. Even though our kids are finalized & have been for years, I still fear a CPS call, especially as our kids grow older and are developing behaviors. I can relate to being fearful to take kids out because not knowing how they will react. Sometimes I think the outside world I craved, was too over stimulating to them and cause them to act out & melt down. I also live in fear that I won’t be successful in breaking the cycle with my kids. All I want for them is to grow up happy and become a benefit to society and not a burden. I say that to my other non-adoptive parent friends & while they nod their heads, I know that they don’t fully understand the importance of breaking the cycle that we are all try to break. Thanks for your post & website it has been a great find for me & my family as I am sharing it with our community to help educate others about adoptive & foster parenting.

    • Melanie, I am so glad you have found hope through Confessions and that you are using it to help others. That’s a win for us!

  • Allisonm

    You hit all of my major fears, one after another. They can seem so powerful that I feel afraid to name them lest they come true. (How’s that for superstition?). Those fears induce a lot of prayer on my part.

    Thanks for saying them out loud. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who worries about these things.