Sometimes in life we simply don’t know what to say—when someone loses a loved one, when they divorce, when they lose a job. But I would have never guessed that people would not know what to say to a foster parent.
It is possible that I might offend some who have made one of these comments to me or to another foster parent, but that is not my intent. My intent is to remind that we are all called to care for orphans. Foster care is a hard job. Foster parents need your encouragement.
I asked a few of my friends who foster or have fostered what kind of comments they get from people. Here are 10 things that no one should say to a foster parent (especially in front of the kids):
1. I could never do that! I would get too attached. This was the consensus as the most common comment. You might think, what is wrong with that? Well…foster parents do get attached. I write about this in my book. I knew that if we had to let our foster son go back to his family I would need counseling. I knew it would hurt deeply.
2. How is a foster parent supposed to respond? My response now is that fostering is a small price to pay to give a child a stable home and family even if for a short time.
3. How can you love other people’s children? Don’t you love your own more? Some of these comments are said in front of foster children as if they can’t hear or understand. Unless they are a little baby, they are listening.
4. What did their parents do to lose their children? See #2.
5. You must get paid a lot to keep these kids. Yes, the state provides funds to help cover the expenses of raising a foster child. From my experience, it does not cover all their expenses. Most foster families spend money out of their own pocket to care for their foster children.
6. I am way too busy to keep other people’s kids. Yeah, I woke up one day and said, “I don’t have enough to do. I think I will foster some vulnerable children.” What is important to you gets done.
7. Why would you want to care of someone else’s kid that has baggage? When I read the Bible, I see over and over that God wants me to care for orphans. Baggage? Last time I looked most every kid has baggage.
8. Will you get to adopt them? This is another one that is said in front of foster children. I was asked this a lot. The reality is that a foster parent has no way of knowing what is going to happen. I also write about this in my book. For me, I had to focus on living in the present. For that day, he was my son. I trusted that God would take care of tomorrow.
9. Aren’t you afraid the different races will affect your kids? Yes, families who foster several children usually have children of different races. This one makes me angry. Enough said.
I believe you have enough children. One friend was shopping with two foster babies, her biological six-year-old, and was nine months pregnant when this comment was said to her. She replied, “These two are foster children” and kept walking.
10. Why do they act like that? Usually this is a look as much as a comment. Foster kids are processing the trauma in their lives. The result many times is acting out. Sometimes their behavior is outrageous. No safer place for them to process than in a caring family.
If I have not completely offended you, please understand that foster parents do get encouragement, support, and sometimes funny comments.
“There is a special place in heaven for you and your hubby.”
“That is about as far apart as I have ever seen twins look” – said about two babies the same age…one biological and Caucasian and the other foster and Hispanic.
“He is in the best place possible.”
Most times when people found out that our son was a foster child, they lit up and would say something like, “that is awesome!” People are usually excited to find out that an at risk or orphaned child is in a safe, loving home.
I am providing links to three articles that I read recently that are worthy of passing on.
What Foster Parents Wish Other People Knew. This article dovetails with my post.
From the Prospective of a Caseworker. Very insightful blog through the eyes of a Child Protective Services caseworker.
Would You Put Your Kids in an Orphanage? Challenging article that brings attention to the fact the best place for a child is in a family.
I believe that not everyone is able or supposed to foster children. But if you are a follower of God, there is no way to get around the fact He expects us to take care of orphans.
Even though not everyone is able to or should foster or adopt an at risk child, you can still link arms with those who do. Search out ways you can care for orphans. As you do this, I trust you will know exactly what to say to foster parents.
I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.