Pros and Cons of Working in Foster Care

The foster care system in the U.S. has a lot of pros and cons, but one thing everyone can agree on is the people who work in these homes and provide for the children are doing some of the most vital social work imaginable. Kids who don’t have families rely on foster care workers for support in a variety of ways, and this can be stressful for foster care workers.

There are also positives to working in foster care, like getting foster career discounts on health insurance or seeing the amazing payoff of a job well done when a foster child goes on to live a happy and healthy life. Between the financial aspects and the emotional ones of working in foster care, there’s a lot to think about before starting your career.

We’ll cover several pros and cons of working in foster care, including the ones above, so a full picture of the positives and negatives can be found.

Pro #1 – You Can Help Children in Need

Every child in foster care comes from a different background. The rate of divorce and the legal battles for children in the U.S. between divorced couples can lead many children to end up in the foster care system if both parents are deemed unsuitable to parents.

Other circumstances leading to foster care could be teenage single mothers putting their babies in foster care, or a parent dying and not designating a guardian. There’s no way to list every circumstance, but obviously, foster care is not something any child would choose over living comfortably in a typical family home with parents and siblings. 

Whatever the situation a foster child came from, foster care workers need to make sure they have a tender heart and a caring hand to give the kids in the home the best possible care. Doing this will increase the potential for a foster child to have a productive life well into adulthood, even if their original situation wasn’t ideal.

Helping children in need isn’t something everyone can do effectively. If you’re cut out for the job, working in foster care is incredibly rewarding in a way many other careers aren’t.

Con #1 – Being a Foster Care Worker is Stressful

On the other side of the coin, working in foster care can be stressful depending on a variety of factors. If the children you’re working with come from a damaged home, abusive parents, or other horrific circumstances, it’s going to take tons of patience and time to gain their trust. You must also learn how to deal with difficult teenage kids.

Children may not always be pleasant to be around when they come from bad situations and they’ll take their emotions out on you. No matter how understanding you are as a foster worker, you’ll need a way to decompress at the end of your work day. Talk to other foster care folks and see how they handle the stresses of the job so you can try to do similar things.

Pro #2: You Don’t Always Need Higher Education

Depending on what type of work you do in the foster care system, you may not need higher education. This is a great positive for people who want to work with foster kids but don’t have the money to go to college.

Reports say 64% of foster care workers have a degree, but this means nearly a third of all foster care workers have no college degree. This proves you can absolutely succeed in finding a job in the foster care system without a bachelor’s.

On the other hand, if you want to work in more psychological or mental health-related areas of the foster care system, this may require more education. Many foster workers who counsel kids or serve as their therapists have at least a four-year degree.

Online college and other modern ways of going to school have made getting a degree easier for potential foster care workers, though.

Con #2 – Salaries Are Low

As with many jobs that don’t require a college degree, working in the foster care system may not present as many opportunities for large salaries. This is dependent on the foster care system you’re hired into and other factors like the state you live in. Some areas have higher salaries for the same types of jobs.

The median wage in 2020 for foster care social workers was just under $50,000 a year. This is not a great salary depending on the cost of living in your state. Having a side hustle along with your work in the foster care system may be a way to supplement your income and live a financially stable life.

Pro #3 – You Get Financial Breaks

If you decide to become a foster parent to a foster child, there are several insurance benefits to look forward to as a foster family. For example, many foster children can stay on state-funded medical insurance until the age of 18, no matter what insurance the foster parent has.

This is helpful to both foster parents and foster children because of the financial burden of paying for medical costs. Foster parents should also see if their foster child can go to college for free when they turn 18, another government benefit in several states around the country.

Con #3 – The Foster Care System Needs Improvement

Foster care in the U.S. is a mixed bag. While it helps give children a home who need it, the foster care system doesn’t create an environment where children can grow up to live their best lives. Sometimes children are placed in foster care because the government doesn’t try hard enough to reconnect these kids with their parents.

If you work in foster care, it can be depressing to see the lack of evolution in the foster care system through the years. Trying to be a positive role model to foster children is the best thing you can do.

You can see there are many pros and cons to working in the foster care system. Whether you’re a foster parent or a foster social worker, you need to make sure you have the skills to work with children and be understanding of their struggles.

You won’t always get a great salary, but tax breaks, college tuition breaks, and other bargains help foster families. Overall, working in foster care is a rewarding career for those who love to work with children in need of help.

Shawn Laib writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, He wants to help people decide if they should work in foster care.

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