Hi! My name is Lauren McCoon, and my husband, Tanner, and I are foster parents in Washington State. Our experience with the foster care system might not relate to every state, town, or specific child’s case, but I would still love to share our story!
Foster care is such a veiled subject to those who are not involved or see it lived out on a daily basis. Because of that, there are some myths and misconceptions many people have. During my own experience with the foster care system, I have learned three important things that I think would benefit others as well.
You don’t need to be perfect.
The most common response we get when we tell people we foster is “I could never do that.” While each person’s reason for feeling inadequate may be different, the overall assumption is that you need to be a certain way or in a certain life phase to take in fosters. However, this could not be further from the truth! The foster care system is not looking for perfect people to be with these kiddos. They are looking for real families with real challenges and real love.
My husband and I are the perfect example; we are the most unprepared and inadequate couple for this job. Tanner is 23, I am 21, and we have a three year old son and one year old daughter. We are renting our home, live off one income, and my bathroom floor is always covered in clothes. Clearly we don’t have it all together! But you don’t need to be rich, have the cleanest house on the block (anyone who has seen my house knows this one is TRUE) or be the picture perfect parent! The only thing you need is love. We don’t have many “qualifications” but we definitely have a lot of love in our house to give. And that is enough.
Biological parents are normal people too.
A common misconception (that I too believed) is that every biological parent in the foster care system is a drug addict, abusive, and should never get their child back. This sounds so harsh, but it’s hard not to feel this way because sometimes all you hear is the bad stuff. Thankfully, this could not be further from the truth!
Biological parents are REAL parents that love their children just like you love yours. They may have different struggles or addictions than you and me, and that is ok. We are here to help them.
The entire goal with foster care is reunification: partnering with biological parents to establish happy, healthy homes for their littles. Biological parents are offered resources to help them recover from and work through their challenging circumstances. These circumstances can vary widely—no case is the same! It is not always abuse or neglect as we may often assume. Whatever the case, the most important thing to remember is that these are the parents. They love their children and simply have some obstacles in their way.
Your heart will grow.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to love and care for someone else’s child well enough. However, I’m realizing that these kids don’t need perfection, they just need love. No foster parent (or any parent!) is doing it perfect, we are just taking it one day at a time.
Tanner and I are normal people who felt a tug in our hearts for children in the foster care system. We are doing all the things any parent does, just with an extra kiddo or two. I’ve realized how our hearts are capable of much more love than we think. I have such a deep love for our fosters, yet at the same time I want so badly for them to be home with their families again. I, too, love their parents and want to cheer them on this journey to family improvement.
I hope this helps you know more about foster care and how doable it is. While hard and emotional (and wonderful!), you can do it too. If you can, attend an orientation in your area! They are full of information and can help answer more specific questions about your town and state’s foster care system. And if you have any questions for me or want to know more, feel free to follow our family journey on Instagram @laurenmccoon!