Being the Role Model your Foster Child Needs


Role models. They are everywhere. A few years back, controversy was stirred when a professional athlete once stated that he was not a role model. Unfortunately, this is not true for you. As a foster parent, you will be a role model for countless people, as many eyes will be upon you. Not only will you be a role model for your foster children, but for the public, as a whole. After all, not many in our society know what foster parenting or foster care is really about. If you are like me, your own friends and family members don’t even really know what you do. Gosh! I have written several books on foster care, have a radio show and a weekly video series, and have spoken to countless organizations. Yet, my own family doesn’t really appreciate what my wife and I do on a daily basis as foster parents.

Perhaps you have a similar situation; those closest to you have no idea what happens in your own life and household every day, and the particular challenges, heartaches, and frustrations you face as a foster parent. As a result, foster parenting will be on display for all to see as you undertake your role as a foster parent. Your family, your work mates, your close friends, those at your church; all will discover what foster care is all about, just by watching what you do each and every day. Furthermore, they will also come to learn more about what children in foster care also experience, as well. Perhaps others will be impressed by your role, and will wish to become a foster parent, as well, or in the very least, help out. Hey, your efforts and your example might even lead others to sign up for the next set of foster parent training sessions in your area.

For birth parents and family members of the children in foster care placed in your home, though, you might be the best example of what a good parent is. For many children in foster care, they come from a long cycle of family members placed in foster care. Think of it as a generational cycle. I have had many children in my home whose parents were in foster care before them. Indeed, a few months ago, I had a new born baby placed in our home; a tiny four pound baby who was on a heart monitor when he first came to us. He was so tiny! As you can imagine, my wife immediately fell in love with him, and we had hoped to adopt him. Sadly, it did not work out for us. His parents were both teenagers, approaching twenty years old, and both had been in foster care, themselves. On top of that, the birth mother’s own mother (the tiny baby’s grandmother) had also been in foster care, as well as some of the aunts and uncles of the newborn baby. This was one child that had a long family history of foster care, and would likely have a difficult time trying to have the cycle broken for him if he remained with his biological family.

With this in mind, it is important to remember that you are being watched. To be sure, you might be the first example of how to take care of a child, and how to be a healthy and loving parent. Everything you do as a foster parent will send signals to the biological parents on how a parent should act, as well as how to treat their own children. Everything you say will speak volumes to the child’s birth family members. This is indeed a big responsibility, and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, as a foster parent, it is important that you embrace this role, as it will surely affect the child in your own home if and when they go back to the birth family members in the future. You are planting seeds in the biological parents’ lives; seeds which will hopefully blossom into something better.

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About Dr. John DeGarmo

Dr. DeGarmo has a B.A. in History, a Masters in Media Technology, a Masters in Educational Leadership, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Walden University. Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on Responding to the Needs of Foster Children Face While in Rural Schools.  He is the author of several books, including the highly inspirational book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent's Journey,  and the foster care children's book A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. He is the host of the weekly radio show Foster Talk with Dr. John. Dr. DeGarmo is a dynamic speaker and informative trainer on the foster care system, and travels extensively, meeting with foster parents, child welfare workers, churches, schools, and organizations.  He writes regularly for many magazines, and is a regular contributor to several publications and newsletters, both in the United States and in Europe. Dr. DeGarmo is married to Dr. Kelly DeGarmo, who hails from Australia, and the two of them have six children, both biological and adoptive.  Dr. DeGarmo and his wife are also currently foster parents to five siblings, bringing their household to eleven children.  Dr. DeGarmo has been a foster parent for dozens of children for over a decade now.  He has a passion for foster children, and is driven to bring education and insight into general society about all things foster care. You may contact him at, on Facebook at Dr. John DeGarmo, Twitter @drjohndegarmo, or at his website,