We’re overwhelmed–help!
A reader asks ...

We’re so overwhelmed, we’re thinking about giving up our license! Can you help?

We are struggling with a child placed in our house three months ago. The agency has made some effort to support us, but it is not enough. We are completely overwhelmed and thinking about giving up our license. Help!

It shows great strength to reach out for help, and I applaud you for that. It sounds like you’ve made it through three long and exhausting months, which is a real accomplishment. It is clear that you are doing the best you can for this child as you seek to maintain the placement in spite of the struggles. North Carolina is lucky to have you as a foster parent.

It’s clear you’re doing all you can for this child as you seek to maintain the placement in spite of the struggles. North Carolina is lucky to have you as a foster parent!

It’s important that foster parents know where to get help when they need it. I’m glad you’ve reached out to your agency already, but it sounds like you need more. Here are some suggestions for ways you can address this crisis now, and also recover your strength so that you feel up to maintaining your license and caring for young people in foster care in the future.


Respite is critical to maintaining a healthy placement. Of course, it’s not always immediately available, but please, always tell your agency when you feel you need temporary respite care. No one can expend all the mental and emotional energy that fostering requires without taking occasional breaks.

In addition to allowing time for recharging, respite can also give you an opportunity to grow your knowledge base so you are better prepared for the child’s return to your home. Perhaps a specific training would help you maintain this placement.

Make a Plan

Sometimes just knowing exactly what action to take in a crisis can make all the difference. The next time you feel your stress level start to rise, what will you do to relieve that stress in a safe way? If one intervention doesn’t work, what’s the next one you will try?

Taking the guess work out of crisis management can save valuable mental and emotional energy and make you more resilient in the moment.

Time Management

Even when you’re not actively in crisis, there are so many different meetings and activities to balance as a foster parent. The simple act of planning your week can be overwhelming. Last minute additions can cause the whole schedule to come crashing down. That’s added stress you don’t need.

Be sure to advocate for yourself if your agency or the child’s agency is putting too much on your plate, or if the agency is not informing you about important events until the last minute.

Also, maybe there are some items on your schedule that aren’t as necessary as you once thought. Letting go of the unimportant things will give you more energy to manage the things that must get done, and will mean you are less likely to drop the ball on something essential.

Informal Supports

Turns out, foster parents are people like everyone else! It’s important for you to take time out from the daily grind to get a coffee with a friend or have your neighbors over for dinner.

Fellow foster parents are an especially important source of support, as they know exactly how harrowing this experience can feel. Use the community that you’ve built for yourself to help prop you up when you are feeling low, and ask for help when you need it. These people can often point you toward your own strengths and see solutions that you cannot.

Advocate for Yourself

Foster parents often feel they are under a microscope, afraid to say or do the wrong thing in their agency’s eyes. These feelings can cause them to not speak up when things are hard, and to not ask for things they need. Please be honest and forthright about what is missing from your supports. Your words may give some needed attention to a serious issue that is causing other foster parents to leave a particular agency, or causing more placements to disrupt. You are the expert on your family.

Placement Change as a Last Resort

We all want to do whatever we can to ensure children have as much stability in their lives as possible—especially in their living arrangements. Strengthening and supporting a child’s current placement is always preferable to a move.

However, when all supports have been tried and exhausted, it may be time to consider a different placement. In the long term, if you are not able to meet his needs, both you and the child will suffer. A placement change will be traumatic, so any movement should be done in a way that does the least harm possible. To achieve this, strong communication, planning, and collaboration with your agency are essential.

Response by the NC Division of Social Services. If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina you’d like answered in “A Reader Asks,” send it to us using the contact form here.