5 Things To Say to Drive a Foster Parent Crazy (And What to Say Instead)
People are curious about foster care and often want to ask foster parents questions. We know this and are usually open to talking, but make sure what you say is not rude or invasive. Certain things foster parents often hear drive us crazy so here’s some advice on things to avoid and suggestions for what to say instead.
1. What did the kids do?
I cannot say this enough times: children do not enter foster care because they are bad. Kids are in foster care because of neglect or abuse.
· Instead, ask about the kid’s personality or their likes and dislikes. Show interest in the children and don’t treat them differently just because they’re in foster care.
2. What did their parents do?
While children enter foster care because their families cannot keep them safe, it is still rude to ask why their kids were placed in foster care. Foster parents are bound by confidentiality so we won’t tell you anyway.
Instead, ask how the kids are adjusting and settling in and if there’s something you can do to help the kids feel more at home. All you need to know is that the children have experienced trauma and the foster family is working hard to help them heal and feel loved.
3. When are you adopting him/her?
The first goal of foster care is reunification. Even when a child is freed for adoption, it is a long and complicated process and we as foster parents may not know when it is going to end.
Instead, you can ask how the process is going or how the family is doing in the midst of it, but let the foster parents lead in the amount they want to share. Sometimes we want to be able to talk about how things are going, other times we don’t really understand what is going on ourselves and it’s too hard to try to explain it to someone who doesn’t know all the confidential details.
4. Foster kids are going to be bad influences on your biological kids.
While my husband and I do not have biological children, many of my foster parent friends do and they have a totally different perspective. Many of my foster parent friends with biological kids talk about how foster care has helped their biological children become more caring and empathetic people and how they have seen real benefits from their interactions with foster children.
Instead, ask how they have seen foster care impact their biological children and what they have learned from having foster siblings. You may be surprised how positive foster care has been for the whole family!
5. Well, you knew this could happen when you became a foster parent.
Yes, foster parents do sign up for heartbreak, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. We need people who understand that while grief and loss is expected because foster care is inherently complicated and painful, we still need support from families and friends to help us through the tough times.
Instead, try to be affirming and let foster parents share about the pain and frustration. Know that foster care is complicated and there are no easy answers.
Usually, foster parents don’t need advice or someone to “fix” the issues; we need someone to listen and to love us and our families (foster kids included!) through all the ups and downs.