If you’re a foster parent, chances are you’ve heard many of these statements or questions. Most people mean well, but they may not understand how complicated foster care can be. If you’re a friend or family member of a foster parent, here are a few things to avoid.
1. “These kids are so lucky to have you.”
We know you mean this as a compliment, but unfortunately, kids in foster care really aren’t very lucky. No matter the situation, being removed from your home is a traumatic experience and even the most wonderful foster parents won’t immediately feel like home to a foster child. What to say instead, “I can tell you really care about these kids!”
2. “I hope they get to stay with you.”
You may assume that a foster family is a better alternative to a bio family or relative, but that’s not usually the case. Whenever possible, we hope the children are able to return home. What to say instead, “I’ll be hoping for the best outcome possible, whatever that may be.”
3. “Their parents must be terrible.”
We know it’s easy to assume that kids are in foster care because their parents are bad people, but that may not be the situation. Many children are in foster care as a result of addiction, poverty, or a cycle of abuse. It’s impossible to know the situation and it’s not fair to assume that a bio parent isn’t trying their best. What to say instead “It must be a hard situation for the whole family.”
4. “I’d never be able to handle a foster kid’s behaviors.”
While it’s true that many foster kids have challenging behaviors, there is a wide spectrum of challenges. When you’re becoming a foster parent, you can talk to your worker about what behaviors you feel comfortable handling and what is out of your reach. For example, you might not be able to handle complex medical needs, but you could help a child with a learning disability. There are also lots of training resources available for the type of challenges you may encounter.
5. “I could never be a foster parent because I’d get too attached.”
We hear this one a lot. And the problem is that attachment is a really important part of foster parenting. We don’t keep our children at arm’s length. Children need to learn healthy attachments to safe caregivers so part of our job is to teach safe attachment by showing these children unconditional love. Is it hard? Absolutely. But it’s worth it!