Over the transom comes a very rare email — one with a question we’ve never addressed before! Good way to start things up again, methinks.
A Foster Mom writes:
I was recently told by an agency that they are unable to work with our family because we are foster parents.
We feel discriminated against. Is there a valid regulation here or a discrimination?
In the eyes of the law, foster children are equal to biological children, so why would this be?
My scan of the US State Department regulations for the AU Pair Program doesn’t suggest that Foster Parents are specifically excluded from the Au Pair Program. Neighbors of mine had an Au Pair who cared for both their (birth) daughter and their (foster) daughter, before the (foster) daughter was officially and permanently adopted into the family. In this case, their (foster) daughter had already been with them for a multi-year period, so it wasn’t as it there was one foster child for six months, with a break before another foster child arrived. It was more a question of the child’s legal status.
But, I can understand why an Au Pair Agency might shy away from Foster Families as Host Families.
The prevailing assumption about Foster children is that their placement in a Foster Family is temporary, with unpredictable beginnings and endings. (E.g., a foster child can be returned to a natural parent when that parent is able to care for the child, such as when that parents health returns, or their drug problem is under control, or they have proven they can provide a stable home … but who is able to predict that? It’s so case-specific.)
The pattern of child/ren’s placement in a Foster Family is also unpredictable. If Foster Parents consistently take in, care for, and let go of Foster Children, how can they predict the responsibilities an Au Pair will face over the course of his/her Au Pair year?
From the perspective of the prospective Au Pair, this is not a situation that’s set up for an Au Pair to do well.
An Au Pair needs to know the number, the age, the challenges, and the personalities of the specific child/ren the Au Pair will be caring for. This is partly becuase the Au Pair needs to match their skills and interests to the needs of the family, but also because the Au Pair needs to make an emotional connection and commitment to the Host Kids.
If it’s difficult for Foster Parents to find the right emotional connection with a child whom they — temporarily and for an unpredictable amount of time– take into their family, then it would be especially difficult for an Au Pair.
What other thoughts have you on the question of whether Foster Families should host Au Pairs?
What am I missing about the Foster Parent experience?
What kinds of Foster Family situations would seem appropriate for an Au Pair?