The Foster Parent Shift: The Impact of Foster Parenting on Friendships
“That will never happen to us.” This is what I thought when a veteran foster parent shared about the impact foster parenting has had on her friendships. She said that her circle of friends changed a lot because some of her close friends prior to foster parenting weren’t supportive of foster parenting. While I was so sad to hear that she had that experience, I thought I knew our close friends well enough to say they would all be very supportive. Sadly, I was wrong; it did happen to us.
Our first two foster children were only with us a few days, so not many people got a chance to visit. Our third child was with us for three months and we had so many visitors during that time. Unfortunately, some of the people we considered very close friends, who also lived five minutes away, did not come to visit. I told them it really hurt us that they did not visit him. Their response was “well, we didn’t know how long he would be with you.” I didn’t know what to say to that, but it didn’t sit well with me.
Later, I was talking to another foster parent whose first foster child left after one day. She told us that their good friends showed up on the very first day their next child arrived because they did not want to miss out on meeting any more of their kids. That statement made me realize that this is the way true friends act and made me understand why I felt so let down by my other friends; I expected them to have that kind of attitude.
When our next child came, these friends still made no effort to meet him. They saw us for a totally unrelated reason and did meet him then, but there was no effort before or after that to see him, though he has now been with us over 15 months. They also said some other things I found really insensitive which showed that they do not understand foster care and have no wish to be educated. After a while, they just disappeared from our lives entirely, which confirmed that they were not the good friends we thought they were.
People like that are not people I want in my life and they are definitely not people I want around my children. It may seem extreme, but my children take priority. Like any parent, I have no room for friends who refuse to value my children. I also believe that how people treat vulnerable people, like foster children, reveals their true character and I do not regret the loss of that friendship, however painful.
The changing friendship dynamics haven’t been all bad. We gained more friends than we lost and I think we have healthier and more enjoyable friendships as a result. Some of our closest friends now are another foster family and it’s hard to believe we’ve known them less than two years. While I may have been disappointed by some friends’ negative reactions, I was blown away by the love and kindness of other friends and acquaintances.
Our experience, though not uncommon, is not universal. You may not lose any friends. I know many foster families who have amazing communities who really rallied around them. One thing that does seem to be universal, however, is that foster parents gain wonderful new friends in the foster parent community who are great sources of support, encouragement, and fun.