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Jul 07, 2017

by Sheina Martinez, Foster Care Recruiter/Licensing Specialist, Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley

My husband and I both work full time, and we have two biological children. People often ask us, “How can you do foster care with both of you working?” As a working mom, I have found more resources available to help us parent foster kids than if we were only parenting our biological kids. 

Child Care is Covered

In Philadelphia, kids in foster care qualify for subsidized child care for low income families. With our dual income, we don’t qualify for that or any other services, but the child qualifies because eligibility is based on the child’s income, which is the foster care stipend, not the foster family’s income. In our family, if we had another baby, we couldn’t afford to pay additional day care out-of-pocket. But subsidized day care is available for my foster son to go at no out-of-pocket cost to us.

*There are cost limits that vary state to state, but your state’s subsidy should cover basic child care services in most cases.

The subsidy covers day care for children under age 5 as well as after care for school-aged children. I’m always covered for child care up to 6:00 p.m.—it’s actually easier than finding after-school care for my biological kids. It also pays for summer camp for kids under 12. My husband and I have had eight children in our care, and child care has been free for each one.  Each time a new child comes to our home, we apply for a child care spot, and after a few days things are covered.

Respite is Available

In my experience, friends and family members seem more willing to help here and there with needs related to your foster child. If they can watch the kids on a Saturday or on a weeknight when I have to work late, they feel like they are helping to show love to a child and supporting a family that is caring for a child in need—and they are. I’ve also found that church members are more willing to come alongside our family to help in specific ways when we are fostering.

Formal respite care is often available for foster parents where another licensed family can host your foster child for a short period of time. For example, if you go through busy seasons in your work where you know you’ll be working the next six Saturdays, you may be able to line up respite care for a few of those weekends. Most parents would love the option to take a break from time to time, but a formal respite opportunity isn’t available for parents raising biological kids. 

You Learn to Juggle Schedules

When you’re thinking about stepping into foster care with a full-time job and possibly a family as well, you have to know what you can realistically handle. Our biological children are involved in many extracurricular activities, and if our foster children are old enough and interested, we help them participate in activities too. We set and stick to our limit on how many practices, games, and events we can manage in a week.

More children means more doctor visits, dentists, and general appointments. Scheduling these for multiple children can be a challenge, so you learn to get creative. I schedule early morning appointments so we can miss the least amount of school and work. Sometimes it works to wait a few days and schedule one appointment block for all of our kids at once, and we can get things done in one trip. Busy people often become exceptional organizers and can get more things done than people who don’t carry as much. You simply learn how to do what you have to do.  

Talk to your foster care specialist to learn about other resources that are available to you as a working foster parent. There are options available to help you honor your commitments and make a new commitment to care for a child who needs a home like yours.

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