Things You Should Never Say to a Foster Parent
As you can imagine, deciding to become a foster parent or even adopt from foster care is not an easy choice. Once a person or couple chooses this path in life, they often start talking about their choice to family and friends. This is where normal, well-adjusted people become morons. I'm not sure why it happens, but it does, in fact, happen—and often enough to take notice. In fact, we foster parents often laugh about it on forums! It's okay, I'm sure you had no idea! If you want a good laugh and a bit of enlightenment, please read on.
1. "Oh, you don't want those kids, they are messed up!"
Wow. What if someone just showed up at your house, told you to put some of your things in a trash bag, stuck you in a social worker's car, and drove you to an office to sit while she called 10-20 people looking for a bed for you? Then they just dumped you at a new house—wouldn't you be messed up? Cut the kids some slack; they didn't ask to be yanked from their homes, and they certainly don't want to live with strangers. They're all pretty good kids. Assuming that "they are all messed up" doesn't make you look too bright.
Have you ever traveled to a different country and made a stupid mistake while ordering food or screwed up the proper way to hail a cab? Foster kids are like that—they often live in a world of shelters or HUD housing, and they are constantly having to look for food. Now, take them to a regular restaurant: You may see a 10-year-old smash his face into the sneeze guard to blow faces at the salad (been there, seen that)! First, he has no idea how to act because he's never been in that situation. You heard that right—he's never been to a restaurant. Second, if he knew what a sneeze guard was, he wouldn't touch it. Duh. They just need time to get up to speed with regular kid stuff and learn how to not act like a feral Tasmanian Devil.
Remember, if foster parents don't step in and help these kids, you will have grown adults blowing bubbles on the sneeze guard! Trust me, it's only funny once.
2. "As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant!"
**Insert facepalm here.**
This doesn't apply to me, but I know several adoptive moms that have had cancer, a hysterectomy, or multiple miscarriages. This comment can be devastating to them, or if they have a sense of humor, it makes you look like a total idiot. The best response I've heard is, "Wow, that would be impressive—since I don't even have a uterus!". Personally, I chose adoption first, so that means I am actively trying not to get pregnant. This task isn't nearly as tricky as most 16-year-olds proclaim it to be. It's okay, I'm sure you just saw some great special on the Lifetime network about increased fertility after adoption.
3. When people bring up the race card
- "Is he from Africa?" Okay, honey, you need to turn off the E! network. Turns out, this country has black people in it—lots of black people. Foster care is full of tiny people who are black, white, Hispanic, biracial, etc. It's like a rainbow.
- "Does he speak English?" Well, currently he speaks baby—he's six months old. However, I assume he will, in fact, speak English because—*drum roll*—he's an American child.
- "Did they make you take a black baby?" ... o_o ... Actually, I asked for a purple one, but they were all out. I guess I could dye him like an Easter egg though! Seriously, unless you just time-warped out of 1926, maybe you should get some counseling about your issues.
- "Is the father black?" My response: "Hmm...not sure, never met the father." This really stumps nosy, old ladies, I never add anything past that comment either.
- "Is that a black baby?" Um...is that rhetorical? I'm pretty sure even small kids can spot the difference between black and white. But nice icebreaker!
- "But, he's white!?" Yes, white kids are in foster care too! Feel free to Google it if you don't believe me.
- "At least they're white, so you can pass them off as your own." Sorry lady, but I already pass them off as my own—color is not even on the radar.
- "You should shave his head so he doesn't look bi-racial!" What in the hell is wrong with you?! Seriously, you need help—and step away from my devilishly-handsome, curly-haired son.
4. "Are you doing it to make money?"
To answer this briefly: bawhahaha
You must be kidding me. Did you give birth to make money? Living large off that child tax credit? No? Yeah, me either. I don't live a low-income lifestyle—we eat out, go on trips, etc. I'd like to also add—I adopted one of my kids three weeks before he turned 18. Because of his disability, he will have to live with us the rest of his life.
5. "You should breastfeed!"
Apparently, this is a pretty common topic for strangers to bring up at Walmart checkouts when they see you buying formula. Even when pointing out that the kids are in foster care, the breast is best! Sure, unless the biological mom is an addict, has a drinking problem, or god forbid, some illness the baby could catch. I mean the kids are in foster care for a reason.
As a foster parent, I'm not even allowed to let a kid sleep in my bed and you want me to breastfeed someone else's baby? First off, ew. Secondly, that's not even remotely appropriate or possible.
6. "They're so lucky to have you!"
Yes, indeed these kids are all kinds of lucky to be so badly abused that they get the pleasure of coming to my house. (It sounds really stupid now, doesn't it?) I guess they are lucky their parents didn't kill them, but that seems so wrong. In reality, these kids are the furthest thing from lucky. The kids that end up with two loving parents from birth who feed them, take care of them, and treat them like a kid should be treated—they are the lucky ones. So please don't tell my kids they are lucky to have us. We are the lucky ones. We get to be their parents.
7. "You must be a saint!"
Ha! Clearly, you don't know me. I can be crabby, grumpy, and too tired to drag my butt out of bed on Saturday morning. I also cuss like a sailor, watch Family Guy, and still laugh at fart jokes (thanks, a bunch of Minions). Saint? I don't think so. I don't even think an atheist could qualify to be a saint—can they?
I foster because I like kids, and I want to be a parent. Are daycare workers saints? Teachers? Other parents? Nope, and I'm no different, I just chose another path to get to parenthood. You have to remember that I signed up for this because I want a house full of kids. I wasn't tricked or talked into it—I choose it.
8. "I could never give them back."
So...you're a kidnapper? Wow, good to know!
My first issue with this statement is that I must be some heartless, evil witch that has no feelings because I can give them back. They are not my kids! If a hungry child appeared on your doorstep, would you turn him away without food because you didn't want to get attached? No, of course not! You would bring him in, get him food and warm clothes, clean him up, and call someone to help him. I'm doing the same thing, just for a longer period of time.
When a child first comes into care, the goal is always to go back home. Always. Yes, we totally miss the kids. Yes, it's very hard. Our job is to make that kid feel safe and loved for as long as they are here. I assure you the good feelings outweigh the bad or no one would do this.
9. "Just give him back!"
This is a human, not a puppy. Are you going to give your kid away when he acts up? I'm sure you think the answer to my problems is to give away a troubled kid, but not everyone is a quitter. This kid needs someone to stand next to him even when he's acting up. It's called parenting.
10. "But he's so cute. Why didn't his mother want him?"
Did you only keep your cutest kids?! Again, this is a human, not a puppy. We don't see photos of the kids before the move-in, and we don't go to a location filled with baby cages and pick out a cute one.
Let's break this down: Kids are in foster care because of serious abuse or neglect. The parents are given a case plan and they do their best to get the kids back. Sometimes, their best still isn't good enough and a permanent home needs to be found. His cuteness had little effect on how his parents worked through their plan. The biological parents don't work harder because they want their cute kids back! They either work through their issues, resolve their problems, and get through their plan successfully—or they don't.
11. "Oh, you adopted? Well, I know someone who adopted..."
**Insert horror story here.**
I find it fascinating that your cousin's husband's co-worker had a bad experience; thanks so much for sharing! I know plenty of terrible things biological kids have done–should I start running down the list? Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy had lovely parents, didn't they? Yes, I know you saw the movie Orphan and most likely 20 Law & Orders with terrible foster kids. Pssst, that's made up for entertainment—it's not real, people!
12. "Don't you want to have your own kids?"
These don't look like my own kids? Hmmm...they keep begging for stuff and want me to feed them and wash their clothes—sure feels like my own kids. There are many ways to create a family and all are valid (unless you bought a kid from a street vendor). All the kids are "my own" kids when living in my house. They are valued members of my family and are treated equally.
Not everyone wants to be a traditional parent or even can be a traditional parent. You should safely assume someone spent years mulling over the decision to adopt before mentioning it to you. Unless you've already adopted, you have very little input into this conversion. The only correct answer to "we are going to adopt" is "good for you!" or "congrats!"
What's your opinion?
I hope you had a good laugh! The next time you see a frazzled mom with a gaggle of kids, be nice to her. She just might be lucky enough to be a foster parent.