Even if you already have children of your own, you’ll realize that being a foster parent is much different from what you’re accustomed to or what you’ve come to expect.
As a foster parent, you’ll be required to adhere to various rules and regulations dictated by the state for the protection of foster care kids.
There are issues and complications you may encounter when foster parenting, but this doesn’t make it a less worthy or rewarding pursuit.
As long as you have the space and care to give, you can make a world of difference in a child’s life. You just need to be aware of some regulations and rules to ensure that you don’t overstep your boundaries or endanger the child in your care.
Here are some surprising things you cannot do with your foster kids that’d be totally appropriate for your biological children:
- Alter their appearance without permission
- Share their faces on social media
- Leave them with unapproved babysitters
- Refuse to vaccinate them
- Leave them at home without adult supervision
- Permit co-sleeping arrangements
- Change their names
- Move to a different state or travel overseas
- Share their names or photos in newspaper articles
- Allow them to partake in dangerous activities
Keep in mind that foster care rules and regulations are different from state to state. If you’re worried about any of these, you’ll have to reach out to the department of child and family services in your state or your foster agency to determine what requirements are applicable to you.
1. Alter their appearance without permission
As a foster parent, you cannot make any significant changes or alterations to the appearance of your foster child without seeking the approval of their biological parents or caseworker.
It is not within your authority to pierce the ears of the child under your care, cut their hair, or give them a different haircut from the one they arrived with. Things like this are considered to be capable of impacting the child’s identity of the child.
Your ability to alter the physical appearance of your foster child will depend on the care order that applies to the child, whether you or the state is the child’s guardian, or whether the birth parents or extended family are still involved in the child’s care plan.
Even if the child is asking for their hair to be cut, you may not actually have the authority to grant their wishes, especially if the child in your care is below the age of 12.
You’ll still be responsible for making sure that the hairstyle they currently have is maintained regularly and cut after permission has been granted by a parent or caseworker.
However, if the child is 12 years old or older, they’re usually allowed to decide what kind of haircut they want, but you’ll have to make sure whatever they get doesn’t go against their school or employment rules.
For foster children covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), getting permission to cut their hair is an absolute requirement.
2. Share their faces on social media
You may have noticed that foster parents place emojis over the faces of their foster children to hide their identity when they share pictures on social media, this is because foster parents are precluded from showing the faces of the children in their care on public platforms like social media and blogs.
In the same vein, you can’t allow your foster child’s picture to be taken and posted for the consumption of the public. It doesn’t matter if your social media account is private or that the photos are only being shared within a group composed of only your family members and close friends.
In some cases, this directive is to ensure the safety of the child, as well as you and your family, but it’s mostly because you’re not the child’s biological parents or legal guardians, so you don’t have the right to share their photos wherever and whenever you please.
3. Leave them with unapproved babysitters
In many places, you can’t leave your foster child with caregivers or send them to a daycare that hasn’t been approved by child and family services.
However, using reasonable judgment, you can be allowed to let a responsible adult babysit your foster child for up to 24 hours without getting prior approval from their caseworker.
If you wish for another adult to babysit your foster kids for longer than 24 hours, you’re going to need to secure express permission, or you can leverage respite foster care services.
Although this rule seems restrictive, it’s meant to ensure that the child is safe and protected at all times, especially when they’re being temporarily looked after by someone other than you or other members of your family.
4. Refuse to vaccinate them
If you’re an anti-vaxxer, you cannot use your beliefs as an excuse to not vaccinate your foster kids.
It doesn’t matter whether you think vaccines are a kind of evil or that you don’t even vaccinate your biological children, foster agencies and child services in most states will require you to vaccinate the foster children under your care.
If the foster child’s legal parents are against vaccinations, the state will have a judge rule that the child should be vaccinated.
5. Leave them at home without adult supervision
You cannot leave your foster kids who are below the age of 12 at home without supervision. However, you are permitted to do so for brief periods of time if the child is 12 years or older and has been in your home for at least 14 days.
If you or some other family member can’t pick up your foster child after school or won’t be home when they get back, they must be able to get into the house using a key or some other safe method.
They must also have access to emergency numbers and procedures, and a means of contacting you, your partner, or some other member of the household. Make sure all the phone numbers they can call in case of an emergency are posted in the living room or kitchen.
6. Permit co-sleeping arrangements
Another thing you’re not allowed to do with foster kids is to allow co-sleeping arrangements, whether it’s with you, your partner, foster siblings, or any other member of the home.
This is because some foster children have had unpleasant experiences in their past that might make co-sleeping seem invasive or even trigger some form of trauma. Whether you’re surprised by this rule or not, you have to agree that it makes sense.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from permitting co-sleeping with or amongst your biological children.
7. Change their names
It’s generally not permissible to change your foster child’s first or last names even if you become their permanent family. This is because the child already has their own identity, history, and family connections, and it’s important to respect that and allow the child to retain that connection.
These children come to you due to unfortunate circumstances, not because they’re looking for their first and only family. The goal is to one day return them to their biological parents or relatives.
To that end, it’s necessary to preserve their identity unless exceptional circumstances warrant a change. The particular situation your foster child is in and the state you live in will determine whether you’ll be allowed to give your foster child a different name other than the one they were given at birth.
8. Move to a different state or travel overseas
In most cases, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to relocate to a different state with your foster child in tow even if the child doesn’t have any relatives living in your current state or country.
You’ll have to remain in the state where the child was placed in your care as long as you wish to keep them or return them back to the foster agency so they can be taken to a different home.
The process of getting a passport for a foster child can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming, so if your family has to travel overseas for a vacation or some other reason, it might not be possible to take the foster child along.
9. Share their names or photos in newspaper articles
In some jurisdictions, you cannot have the photos or pictures of your foster kids appear in newspaper articles or even in a school newsletter.
Many foster parents have criticized this rule for being too restrictive and harmful to foster children as it can prevent them from getting scholarships or internships or pursuing certain career opportunities like the rest of their peers who are free to have their achievements publicized in the media.
Although you may feel strongly about this rule, there’s not much you can do except enforce it or find out exactly how it applies to your particular situation.
10. Allow them to partake in dangerous activities
You may not have the authority to grant permission to your foster child to participate in any activity that may reasonably be regarded as dangerous. This includes activities like skiing or ice skating.
If your foster child is invited to a party where they may be required to engage in such an activity, make sure you consult your caseworker or foster agency ahead of time to determine what would be considered right or wrong in your circumstance and how best to proceed.
You may also not be able to permit the child to partake in certain extracurricular activities like playing football, joining the swimming team, going camping, or having sleepovers. This is because the child may not be able to continue such activities in future or when they leave your home, so it makes sense to manage their expectations.
You’ll need to seek approval from the child’s biological parents, extended family, or state authorities before making such decisions.
Foster parenting is a whole different ball game. It comes with its own unique set of rules and challenges that you have to work with or around while providing the best possible experience for your foster child.
Hopefully, these rules are not enough to prevent you from going forward with your foster parenting journey.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, contact the Knotts Family Agency for guidance.