• Lily May

In Which I Talk About Foster Care (Part Three)

We were at a missions conference with the whole family, babies and all. During lunch, a man my dad knew walked up to us and started talking. He thought it was cool that we did foster care, and said that he and his wife had fostered and adopted many years ago. Then he said something slightly shocking: "I could never do what you guys do. I would get too attached."

For a full .5 seconds, the table elapsed into a dense, shocked silence.

Then he laughed. "Do you guys hear that all the time too? Isn't it annoying?"

Awkward and relieved laughter came, followed by my mom saying: "I was taken back for a second, that doesn't seem like something a foster parent would say."

He smiled. "We used to hear that all the time too. When someone I was close to said it, I would tell them, 'Yes, I can't get attached because I'm a cold-hearted, callous man.'"

As funny as this story should be, it hits a sensitive spot on this topic. The things that people sometimes say, even when coming from a place of ignorance towards foster care, can be hurtful and shocking. The phrase that that man stated is one that foster parents hear a lot, along with things like "Do you get paid?" "Which kids are yours?" and "Are you going to adopt them?"

Often, these statements come from people who just don't know much about foster care, and haven't thought about it much. But here I'll explain why these questions can be hurtful.

**Disclaimer: these questions or statements, though often heard, were not ones turned in by readers or anyone else. I am not criticizing anyone that I will most likely reach...simply explaining the reasons behind the hurtfulness of these questions.**

~I could never do that; I'd get too attached.

Saying this is, as previously mentioned, like saying that foster parents or siblings are cold-hearted, and that WE wouldn't get attached. My friends, this is so very wrong. We do this not because we don't bond with the children (on the contrary!!!) or because we don't hurt deeply if they have to leave, but because they need us and they need a place to go. In fact, what these kids often need most is love. Not being attached doesn't help, it hurts. And not being attached is NOT a benefit while doing foster care.

~Are you going to adopt them?

This one's not as offensive as it can be blunt. Often, the future of foster kids is unsure, and saying this (especially in front of older foster children) can be awkward and uncomfortable. Most times, the answer to this question is unknown, and what if the answer is no? All parties end up feeling embarrassed and out of place.

~Do you get paid?

Wh...why does this matter? Yes, foster parents get paid a little by the state to help with the financial issues that can come with taking kids in, like clothes (often kids come with very few clothing items) or food. But this isn't why we do foster care! This question almost assumes that that is one of the reasons why we foster kiddos. Sadly, sometimes people become foster parents for the cash, but this should NEVER be the case. These kids aren't property. They are children of God who need a place to stay. No, money has nothing to do with it--Christian hospitality does.

~Which kids are yours?

Asking this in front of children or foster children gives them the feeling that there's a difference between biological children and foster/adoptive children...especially when children of different races are with a parent. There are (or should be) no labels. No "this child is mine and this one isn't." Families are put together by God, not categorized by skin color or DNA. Even if lawfully the kids aren't yours or never will be, they're still precious, and loved just as any biological child would be loved. Why distinguish?

~Are their parents drug addicts?

Or abusive, or neglectful. All fall under the same category. With our situation, it's a bit different...the boys are just babies, and don't know what's happening or why that question would be hurtful. We discuss their situation with a lot of people. For older children, it can be a devastating reminder that their parents are "no good" or don't love them. Yes, the parents have messed up in the past. But they're still their parents, their biological family. They still often love them like they would love any parent, as hard as that is to believe.

Again, I'm not criticizing. These questions often come from people who simply don't know much about what they're asking. But that's why I'm trying to enlighten people to the beautiful, intense, and painful topic of foster blog post at a time. Never forget that these children are children of God, just as we all are.

"my favorite book says we're all adopted."


do you have specific questions about foster care/adoption? do you or anyone you know have first-hand experience with the foster system?

Toodeloo, friends!

~Lily May

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