Over the holiday season we had the opportunity to attend a Christmas party held by our fostering agency. We are blessed to do life with friends who are also part of foster care, but this was the first time we were surrounded solely by people who just get it. It was a breath of fresh air. On the drive home, we were commenting on how nice it was to go somewhere and not get all the weird, borderline offensive, responses.
Now, to be fair, we recognize that people have good intentions and sometimes just don’t know what to say and what not to say. We totally get that. We were in the same boat before we began the process as well. So to help out, we compiled a list of the worst questions and responses we’ve gotten so far in the foster care process.
1. Well do they pay for that?!
This question gets asked in response to all the typical expenses that come with kids: medical care, food, diapers, formula, school supplies, clothes, etc…And to be clear, yes, the state does pay for many of these things. This is yet another reason why finances are not an excuse to not do foster care. However, this question is mostly asked with a tone that communicates not only an expectation of compensation but also a refusal to foster unless the costs were covered. Last time I checked, kids cost money, families figure it out, and parents always think it’s worth it.
2. Are you going to have your own children?
There are two main things wrong with this question. First, they are our own children. We do not view them as some “other thing”. These kids are fully and 100% part of our family as long as we have them. Second, so many people we know struggle with infertility and/or have had miscarriages. We may too. We don’t know. These friends have tried everything to have kids of their own,are not able to, and are devastated by this. Considering that you may be talking to a person who has been through this, this is probably a question you should just erase from your vocabulary.
3. That takes a really special person/I could never do that.
We are not special. If anything, we are the exact opposite. We were 26 years old with exactly ZERO parenting experience when we began this process. If we can do it, so can you. If you have an extra bedroom in your house, you can do foster care. There is nothing “special” required. When you read scripture, God is actually quite fond of using seemingly unqualified people to expand the Kingdom.
4. I would just get too attached!
This response always bewilders us. Do we give off a cold-hearted vibe? It sounds like people are saying “I would just get too attached to the child, but you guys are rigid and distant enough to pull it off.” Guess what, we get attached to all the kids that come into our home too. When people say “I just don’t think I could handle them being taken away” we typically say “We don’t know that we can either, but we don’t have a choice.” Everyone who does foster care gets too attached, including us. We just don’t see that as a reason to not give a child in need a safe and loving place to stay.
5. I know someone who fostered, and they (insert horrific story here)
Imagine you or your wife were pregnant and someone came up to you and said “Oh, you’re having a baby. Well, I know someone who had a baby once, and that kid got older and was emotionally disturbed and they physically harmed the parents. I’m not trying to scare you, I just want you to know what you’re getting yourselves into.” No one would do that! But people have done this to us. Foster care can be scary enough, don’t be discouraging!
6. What’s their story?
Let’s be honest, what people really mean by this question is “give me the juicy gossip on what their parents did in order to have their child removed.” When phrased like that, maybe you can see why this is a pretty inappropriate question to ask. For privacy reasons, we are not really supposed to share the details of the child’s case with others. However, beyond that, we don’t want any of these kids to be defined by their past. If we have the opportunity to adopt any of the children we foster, we don’t want everyone to know the details about their background or to think negatively about their biological parents. Besides, that’s their story to tell how, when, and to whom they choose. Some aspects of their story may lend toward prayer. For example, a baby that is suffering really bad withdrawals or physical injuries that need to be healed. However, knowing all of the details of the situation is not necessary unless you are someone who is directly involved with the child’s case.
Now, if you are someone who has said or asked some of these, we are not trying to guilt you. You don’t need to come up to us and address it. It’s cool! We just wanted to help out as you encounter more people who foster. Also, we didn’t want this entire thing to be negative and, after reading this, you may be wondering how you COULD respond. Here are some things we love when people ask
- What made you decide to foster?
- What can we do to get involved with foster care?
- What needs can still be met?
- How can we pray for you?
- What is God teaching you in this process?
- Can we give you free babysitting so you can enjoy a date together?
As always, if you want to get involved with foster care in any way, come talk to us. We would love to point you in the right direction. We are always open and willing to answer questions, just think about how they might come off before you ask them.