“Oh, you do foster care?”

You probably know how those conversations go. You mention your family is a foster family and they cut you off with

“Oh, I thought about doing foster care”

Quickly followed by the cringe-worthy

“But I would just love the kids too much to give them back.”

And before you can explain that love is exactly what kids need, they change the subject. Usually they suddenly remember they have to meet so-and-so for lunch. If you’re lucky, you will get a little pat on the back as they tell you

“I am glad your family can do that.”

To be honest, I think it is awkward for both of us. People outside of foster care don’t know what to say- or end up repeating the above conversation. And I don’t know where to start. Being a foster family has affected every aspect of my life. It is such a normal part of my days that I sometimes don’t know how “normal” people live.

Can I suggest something for both sides?

To those who wonder how to respond to a foster family: listen. You don’t need to say much. Ask questions. In listening you will gain a better understanding of how foster care works. With that knowledge, you will begin to see why foster families dread the “I would love the kids too much” phrase (which is another post for another day).

To those involved in foster care: never give up trying to talk, while balancing it out with people who listen. Sometimes it is in the not giving up that you will discover someone who wants to hear what you have to say. It is also good to have a friend on speed dial* who “gets it”. They can give you energy to deal with people who don’t care what you have to say.

Next week I will post about something that is making me happy, related to this topic. In the meantime, what advice would you give people who don’t know what to say? What questions do you have for a foster family?

*And do people still use speed dial?

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11 thoughts on ““Oh, you do foster care?”

  1. I’m not a foster parent, but I have worked in psychological services. Fresh out of college I got a job in wraparound/BHRS as a TSS. All too often, the kids I was suppose to help with their psychological disorders weren’t really the ones who were sick. So many of these so called “problem” kids were far more normal thank I would probably have been had I had their abusive parents. So many of them would yoyo between foster families and their biological families and back again when dad fell back off the wagon, etc. I really had trouble taking it. I cared about the kids so much I just wanted the state to take them away for good, but it’s amazing just how bad things really have to get before a parent’s rights will be permanently terminated. If I’m perfectly honest, part of my fear of becoming a foster parent isn’t just not wanting to give the kids back when the courts award them back to their messed up parents. I think I’d struggle with wanting to meet the parents at the door with a shot gun, telling them exactly what I thought of their parenting skills… And I’m not normally a violent person. 😦 How DO you deal with the knowledge that these kids that you’ve come to love when you know they’re going back to a hellish family environment? I agree the kids NEED a chance to experience a loving family life the way it SHOULD be and get that kind of love and support, but how do you not burn out?

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    1. There comes a point when every foster parent, social worker, etc. wants to shake a parent until their teeth fall out…and other parents who make your stomach turn just to think about them. Believe it or not, there are (few and far between) parents who just need some help. You are not alone in feeling furious.
      The only thing I can do, when a kiddo leaves our house or when they are visiting a parent who has hurt them, is pray and know that the child is in God’s hands. I know that God is a good and supremely loving God and that it breaks His heart to watch a beautiful child that He created suffer. And why He lets suffering? Because I am not God, I don’t understand what He is doing all the time. I can’t see the big picture. But God has proven that He always know what is best, and I trust Him and ask for peace to get through the time.
      I am writing down more thoughts and getting other’s input to answer other things you touched on in later posts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts- and keep asking questions!
      (Anyone else have a thought to share with Audrey?)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’m glad you were able to understand my horribly sleep deprived rambles. Yesterday was another long day at the hospital, and I probably shouldn’t have been writing. Still, your article really touched a cord and I couldn’t help myself.

        I really look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on foster care and your personal experiences. Someday, I really hope to have the opportunity to do what you’re doing. Everyone needs to know that they are loved, especially the ones who haven’t found that love in their birth families. God bless you.

        Oh, by the way, have you seen the YouTube video “ReMoved”? It’s the best visual I’ve ever seen to help people understand where foster kids sometimes are coming from. I think it’s a beautiful reminder of how sometimes the kids who are the most in need of love sometimes ask for it in the most unloving ways. They’re not “bad.” They’ve just already had to deal with more in their short lives than most have to deal with in a lifetime. Don’t know if it might be a useful resource to you in your future blog writing, but thought I’d mention it just in case. Thank you again. Can’t wait to see what you post next. 🙂

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  2. I think it’s a great work that you do. I can’t understand why people cringe when they hear of it. It’s one of the most beautiful things one person can do for another…
    My aunt foster cares, and she has nurtured 3 boys and seen to it that they grow up well. 2 turned out to be pretty great, 1 not so great (but definitely better than he would have turned up otherwise).. and that’s okay. She is doing a very tough job, so are you.

    I wish you good luck. Keep up the good work. The world needs more people like you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello,
    Can you please explain how the whole Foster Care system works? We don’t have that system here in India & would love to know about it from somebody who actually is involved in the process.
    Regards,
    Arpita.

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    1. Great question! I am actually going to post an overview of foster care next week. Basically it is an alternative to orphanages. Instead of children (whose parents cannot care for them) living in institutions, they live with families who take them in temporarily until the child returns home or is adopted. I did find an article on foster care in India that you may find helpful: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0127/Foster-care-takes-root-in-India.-How-does-it-differ-from-adoption
      Thanks for the question! If you have anymore and I don’t answer them in next week’s post, let me know.

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