Fostering can be a sensitive topic. It’s understandable if you’re unsure if it’s appropriate to ask questions or discuss something related to the situation. However, curiosity can lead to awkward, uncomfortable, and inappropriate queries. For everyone’s reference, here are things you shouldn’t say or do around foster families.
Don’t Bad-Mouth The Biological Families
When someone meets foster kids, they tend to make assumptions about their biological families. Every child comes from different circumstances and is in a different situation. The system may have taken some children out of their homes due to abusive families.
However, some may be unable to take care of their families due to mental illness, financial struggles, and other reasons. Some biological parents will even be able to get their kids back later on. It is incredibly insensitive to judge the foster child’s biological family. It can also be hurtful to badmouth the parents in front of the kids.
Further, their backstory is confidential. Foster parents will be unable to share that much information in the first place. Please don’t assume what their life was like before being in the system.
Don’t Ask Us About Money Matters
Okay, it isn’t always inappropriate to discuss finances. However, some people hold the assumption that foster parents make money by taking care of the kids. First of all, they’re not babysitters, and fostering isn’t for profit. There is no monetary gain to it.
While the state may provide some funds for the child’s needs, it isn’t always enough. Some parents will have to shoulder some expenses personally. Foster care isn’t or shouldn’t be something people get into to make money.
Don’t Tell The Kids They’re Lucky To Have Foster Parents
Children in the system, even with caring foster families, are far from “lucky.” It can be quite tone-deaf to say that they are such.
Imagine strange adults coming into your home one day and taking you from your parents. You have no warning, and you have no idea what’s going on. These strangers then bring you to other people you don’t know. They then tell you that these unfamiliar adults will be taking care of you from now on. That doesn’t sound like such a lucky situation anymore.
You can be happy that they’ve found a compassionate family to live with temporarily. However, this toxic positivity can be harmful, pressuring people to be cheerful or find a silver lining.
“Just like something that is done in excess, when positivity is used to mask or silence the human experience, it becomes lethal. By not allowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions,” explains Jamie Long, PsyD.
Don’t Tell Us We Should Adopt The Kids
Unfortunately, not everyone understands that there’s a difference between fostering and adopting. A kid in foster care does not automatically go through the process of adoption. Being a foster child can be a temporary arrangement. Their legal guardian also maintains full parental rights over their kids. These children can then later go back to their biological families.
You shouldn’t tell foster parents to adopt the kids because this decision isn’t up to them. They don’t get to decide whether they can do so, or even if they’ll be up for adoption first place. It may also give the children a false sense of hope. It can even cause distress for them, thinking that they’ll never see their biological family again.
Don’t Ask Us If We Can Bring Them Back
Keep in mind that you’re talking about a human being, not an object you can return to a store. These kids may have issues and troubles, but those challenges should never be a reason to get rid of them.
Foster children need someone to stand by them and look after the mental health of your foster child, even when they act up. It’s also the same for someone’s biological kids. You wouldn’t put them up for adoption because you have difficulty dealing with them, would you? Why should kids in foster care be any different?
Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
Unless someone asks for advice, it isn’t always polite or appropriate to offer it up. Such is true even in situations when someone is dealing with their biological kids. Everyone has their parenting style, and kids will react and receive it differently. What may work for your family may not be the best for another.
Don’t Tell Us How Difficult It Must Be
Trust us; foster parents already know how challenging their situation can be. There are several rules they have to follow. There’s also the attachment they might feel and the hurt when their foster kids go back. Raising children is a trial in general. They don’t need a reminder.
Instead of talking about how it might be difficult for them, discuss something helpful instead. Ask about how you can help around. Let your friends vent about their problems and struggles as a foster family.
Conclusion: Discussing Foster Families
It’s best when people make an effort to learn more about fostering. It’s also helpful to read up on things that may be inappropriate to say to these families. Things like talking negatively about biological parents, calling the kids lucky, and talking about making money are colossal no-no’s. If you’re ever unsure what may be insensitive, you can always ask if it’s okay to know.