“Oh, you got a new foster kid?…You’re going to adopt him, right?”
“I can’t believe that little girl still has to visit her parents. I’m sure they are awful. I wish I could just adopt her!”
“My friend and her husband are trying to adopt from foster care. I just don’t understand why kids get left with parents who can’t afford it when couples like my friend could provide a wonderful home and family. I mean, they have a pool, a 5,000 square foot home, horses, jet skis…wouldn’t that be better for the kids?”
Okay, let’s stop right there. These statements have all missed the point of foster care!
(By the way, if you have said anything like that, keep reading. You are not the only one!)
Foster care is complicated and messy. Families are complicated and messy. People are complicated and messy.
It would be so much easier if families were like Legos.
With Legos, each individual piece can be pulled away from its original structure and still be intact itself. The piece can even neatly fit into a new Lego creation.
It is easy to fall into viewing foster care like that. Pull kids out from the original home and expect them to be perfectly fine and intact. Then, if it doesn’t work out for them to return to their original family, just plug them into a new one. With a little pressure, they will fit right in.
But people are not like Legos. A family cannot be neatly disassembled with each individual remaining intact. Instead of being quick to disassemble families, we need to rethink how we treat families.
NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH
Remembering the point of foster care is a good thing to do during National Foster Care Month. May is a month dedicated to foster care awareness in the United States. For 2019, the theme is “Foster care as a support to families, not a substitute for parents.”
Looking at foster care as a substitute for parents is far too easy. When we think of families and children like Legos, it appears that a child’s parents should be able to be neatly substituted by others, with no interruption. However, as long as we view people in this way, families and children will not get the support they desperately need.
ADVOCATING FOR FAMILIES
I recently graduated with my Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I choose the child development field of study because of my heart for children in foster care. Over the past few years of study, I have learned more and more that secure families are at the center of secure children. Families are important because children do their deepest learning and growing in the context of their family- for better or for worse.
With that in mind, I am committed to advocating for children in foster care and supporting families.
Foster families need to be supported, not just the foster parents. Families involved with child welfare need to be supported, not just children in foster care.
Foster care is not about taking a child from a family. Foster care is about helping the child’s family be its best. Adoption is not about giving a child to a family. Adoption is about providing a family for a child; a family who will be there and help a child as the child comes to grips with the loss of his or her first family.
Families and foster care are complicated and messy. And yeah, it would be easier to keep treating people like Legos.
But people are not Legos. Families are not buildable creations that can be formed or dismantled the way you want. It does children an injustice to keep treating them like plastic toys.
Healing the families as a whole, even if it takes more resources, is the best option for children in the long run. Of course, not every family will heal or be able to care for their child, but we should never wish that on anyone. Instead, we should look at the families around us (foster, adoptive, biological, or otherwise) and start supporting them long before they begin to fall apart.
Maybe it starts by giving them a tub of Legos, and treating people like actual people.