Things You Should Never Say to a Foster Parent - WeHaveKids - Family
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Things You Should Never Say to a Foster Parent

Hiya! I'm Sam, a former foster parent. I spend my days catering to a herd of cats, a couple of dogs, and three obnoxiously adorable kids.

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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.

things-never-to-say-to-a-foster-parent

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.

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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.

things-never-to-say-to-a-foster-parent

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.

things-never-to-say-to-a-foster-parent

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.

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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!

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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!"

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Samantha Lynn

What do you think?

Nicole on July 28, 2020:

I liked what you had to say but at the same time you also put your foot in your mouth! I DO LIVE A LOW INCOME LIFESTYLE, and not doing this for the money. We have everything we need and more and still eat out, take trips and live life. So what if we do it on a budget and get help from time to time. The point is that I provide a safe environment for these kids so they can thrive! I didnt grow up with laptops, tablets and smartphones. The only necessary things you need to foster is provide a safe home, warm bed and all the food they want. Give these kids the tools they need to be successful at living their best life where they wouldnt have had that otherwise. Kids need love! Not extravagance!

Brandi on December 03, 2019:

Thank you!! I love this and can totally relate it's my life everyday..

Josie on December 01, 2019:

As a former foster child and adult foster mom for decades, I can say I'm about done with being shamed with "do you make money off them?" from BOTH sides. My answer has changed to, "No we don't. But we should." Does a day care worker make money "off the kids"? Does a teacher? Does an emergency shelter worker? Does a social worker? Does a group home owner/staff worker(s)? Do respite workers for the foster parent? Do the agency drivers? Do agency admins? Does the gov Family Services Minister? In fact everyone does except the foster parents - who by far, do most of the work on the front lines 24/7 with no vacation time, no labour laws to protect, no pension, no health benefits, no insurance, NO PAY btw. That is why the burnout rate is one year, why there are bad foster parents, why the system is a mess. Very little trickles down for resources for these kids. They deserve far more. Funny how originally some officials stepped in to regulate and help foster parents and kids thrive better, but it has all evolved to help everyone but. This system needs to be overhauled, only not in the way that most think because we've all been manipulated to assume foster parents are slaves to be mistreated, and that is somehow going to work out. I have a question for others, "would you work for nothing at your job? 'Do you have to use the meagre funds(salary) you receive to pay for all your clients' food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, and all other personal needs?' Okay that was two questions.

Kim on November 07, 2019:

Awesome!

Samantha Lynn (author) from Missouri on November 06, 2019:

That's Awesome!

thebradybunch on November 05, 2019:

funny story - we have fostered over 253 foster kids in a 12 year period. At one time we had a black teenager, a hispanic teenager and a white teenager all at the same time. we were going to one of their junior high school basketball games. I asked the teenager who was playing basketball that night if it was OK if we all went as a family together of if that would be hard for them because we were all different races and it would embarrass her - her response was "oh it's no big deal, I just told everybody that we all 3 have different dads but you were our mom". Boy did I get funny looks when we walked in but we think it was a perfect answer! hahaha

UnicornFam on August 17, 2019:

Recently, I showed a coworker a picture of my teenage foster son. She seemed puzzled and exclaimed, "He looks like such normal and sweet kid."

Well, he definitely is, but your reaction made me think you expecting a picture of a feral animal.

former foster mom on June 17, 2018:

Real question, worst question ever, got it all time, in front of my kids, actually trained my kids to expect it, OMG!

"Are you going to keep them?"

On the way home with the kids, we'd laugh about how stupid that question is, by imaging what the person would do if I had said back to them:

"No, I'm going to turn them in for better kids!"

OR

"Are you going to keep yours?"

People, stop and think! At least try!

Facepalm on February 22, 2018:

My favorite interaction was showing a coworker my 6 children only to have her ask, "Which ones are the real ones?" I assured her they were all real, I didn't make any of them up. She immediately realized how terrible a question that was.

My humble 2 cents... on October 25, 2017:

My husband and I adopted our children from orphanages in Russia. I have heard some of the comments you have addressed from time to time. One comment I hear most is, "Are they siblings?" Another is, "Do you have your own kids too?" To many adoptive parents, these comments are very offensive. And I understand why these comments are offensive because of course my children are siblings, just not biologically related siblings. And of course they are my own children, even though I didn't give birth to them. Like you said in your article, it took us years to wrap our heads around building our family through adoption and therefore, we have had years to learn proper etiquette with regard to certain terms that are considered thoughtless or questions that are asked not so delicately by those who are simply curious about something they know nothing about. Or at least not on the same level as we do. We have been immersed in the adoption world for years, like you as a foster parent. Most of the people who ask questions such as, "Isn't it hard to give them back?" or "Is the father black?" have not experienced adopting a child or parenting a foster child. They only see the surface of the relationship with our children which is that our children lived in an orphanage before we brought them home or that a foster parent is simply a full-time babysitter. They are looking at it from a different perspective. An uneducated perspective. They don't know my story.

How long my husband and I tried to build a family and the heartache we suffered while doing so. Or that you chose to foster children because that is where your heart lead you. They probably do not know that the goal of foster care is to reunite a foster child with his/her birth parents whenever possible. Curious people typically do not see that from our perspective, we are the lucky ones as adoptive/foster parents. From their perspective, we rescued an unwanted child. From our perspective, our children rescued us. So while the statements/questions from curious people seem ridiculously ignorant to us, I choose to be tolerant and subtly educate them, if the opportunity presents itself, about a wonderful, beautiful life they know nothing about. That being said, I do LOVE your sarcasm and did get quite a few laughs from your article! I do understand your perspective. I too shake my head sometimes. I just think we should step back and consider their perspective too.

Jen H on October 25, 2017:

I notice there is a lot of “would you turn away a starving child” points here and I know you can’t breastfeed a foster child but I’m a little taken aback by the double “ew” as a answer. All through history women have feed each others infants for various reasons, including that the mother can’t produce. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, would you turn away a starving baby?

Nunya on October 24, 2017:

Have a foster mom friend who went to WIC for her foster son (aged less than 1 year) and was informed she should breastfeed him. When informed such would be illegal AND impossible, the lady said "That's just a foster parent excuse!"

Luckily she is wealthy enough to afford formula on her own, so she walked out immediately.

Marion Crook on September 08, 2017:

I got: Is your husband Native?

I said: No, is yours?

hugin on May 18, 2017:

Some good points. I personally hate the "you must be a saint" comment. How on earth do you respond to that? However, as a foster parent and an animal rescuer you don't just 'give back' pets either. Not a good comparison there at all.

Peggy C. on March 28, 2017:

I've done foster care for more than 12 years and I can't imagine my life without having met and loved all the kids that I've had in my home through the years. I must admit there have been times I've wanted to give up and throw in the towel because for a single middle aged woman, well it would be a whole lot easier life to say the least. But for me, well I'm selfish I guess because I never knew that fostering children would be so rewarding. I honestly thought at first that it would be a way for my only child to have some kids around so that he wouldn't be so lonely as an only child. I had no idea that a piece of my heart would leave with every child that walked out my door. Who would have known that I would learn so much from them!

I've had black children, Hispanic children and white kids as well. I've loved them all the same!

Sunny Day on March 27, 2017:

Don't tell your daughter after 2 1/2 difficult years her foster son had to be placed in another foster home either "you don't just give your children away" or he had to leave because "well you were first time parents". They have no idea the courage it takes to admit you aren't able to help a disturbed child any further or how heart breaking it is to realize that a child you are attached to is so disturbed due to someone else abusing him that he needs deeper help than you can give him.

Melissa S on October 03, 2016:

As a former foster parent (and current adoptive parent to 5 that didnt get to go home) I think Ive heard all of those comments. I have learned over the years that some people are genuinely interested in the fostering journey while others are just plain nosey. Ask a decent question you get a decent answer from me, give me snarky and well...you get the idea

Patty on October 02, 2016:

I have been told every single one of those comments...people are so naive...

evie grace on May 16, 2015:

This touched my heart n I thank God for foster parents who really love the kids. I want to pray for them every day!! Love n prayers to all!!!

Mary on May 16, 2015:

My dear daughter and son-in-law thought long and hard about foster parenting (and possible adoption) and have had three elementary age weekend respite guests and three babies, two of whom are still with them. They are finding the experience extremely rewarding (as are the foster grandparents) to enjoy the darling babies and to assist the parents in their quests to regain them. I am proud that they are helping the parents become better, while loving the babies. Whatever happens, their foster care is making life better for the little ones. They feel sad when people say stupid things like those above.

Gloria R. on September 10, 2014:

Super funny :)

The absolutely worst comment I have gotten was at the super market. The cashier has known us for so long, and when we showed up with our foster son, who had just moved in, her comment was (in front of him), "Well, where did you buy him?"

My instinct was to calmly tell her, as loud as she asked, "He is the newer member of our family"

Though that was a RIDICULOUS comment, I am sure she was surprised and just wanted to say something, which ended up being a stupid something.

The "He is lucky to have you", I have heard a few times, even the "You are a saint". But I see what people mean.

He is lucky to have you - means that they could be out there, under abuse. Some kids end up in terrible abusive foster homes too. So if the person knows us and knows that we care indeed, they may be trying to say, "I am so glad he is in your house, safe and on the road to healing" That's how I take it, anyway. The best response is, "we are the lucky ones" or "Thank you", since they meant to be kind.

You must be a saint - I think people reflect more on their own fears and are just trying to say, "I wish I could step in as well" To that one, I have responded, "please, don't say that"

I was in training but quit when I learn the child may be taken back- that one made me upset because my thought was, "so screw the kid? You quit because the parent may get them back, but that means you won't help anymore??" Still, she wanted to feel like a hero, and that was her way of showing how displeased she was with parents that mess up for real...

I find that people often mean well, and I appreciate their effort, however clumsy it may be. Unless the person is outright being crude, I don't take offense.

It still stuns me when people say or ask things, so I am still learning how to remain calm and extend understanding to all involved.

chasingamazing on September 08, 2014:

(I did a complete overhaul editing the grammar nightmare above ... and published the cut and pasted, unedited original. Sorry for the painful reading! :-(

chasingamazing on September 08, 2014:

Six months ago my husband and I earnestly started our endeavor to adopt through foster care.I can't have ever be pregnant(complete impossibility!), he has some strong and repeating family genes we would rather not pass on if we could find a surrogate, we don't have to 20l-45k to front an adoption agency even if we did jive with it being so expensive to 'market ourselves' to give a needing child a home- so NO we are not going to get pregnant either :-) We are also in our very early 40's (I just turned 40 and hubs turns 42 in a few days) so we aren't exactly on the up-side of the great roller coaster any more.

Almost all I heard- well meant, but think, people- with every announcement of our endeavors to close friends and family were warnings, and horror stories, and "Are you sure?" s . Sigh. Nope! Just decided on a total whim! Were we supposed to research this?

Or.. well I've wanted to be a mom since I was 3 and now I'm 40 so.... no thought at all. Aye!

And I also heard almost

sloshee on July 26, 2014:

I have been a foster parent for 1.5 years, still feel like a newbie! I hear, 'I could never give them back' most often. Usually followed by, I would get too attached. My foster daughter's caseworker recently explained that she couldn't foster herself for that very reason. Other people ask if we are worried about getting too attached. Well, much like *any* other parent of new little people, we fell hopelessly in love with each precious baby shortly after he or she has arrived in our home. So, worrying about getting too attached is pointless! And as a friend who fosters put it, every child deserves a foster parent whose heart will break when they leave.

ssncrvr on July 24, 2014:

Great article! I'm actually considering becoming a foster parent, and now I want to do it more than before.

nancianne on July 24, 2014:

I have had a couple of social workers through our foster family agency who need to read this. Our County social workers have been great. I love the article. There ae just some people who don't think before they speak.

acts238girl on July 19, 2014:

Excellent article, very snarky! (I do take exception to being called a "breeder" though. I give birth to human, not dogs)

potc01 on July 07, 2014:

This hit the nail on the head. Not just for Foster Parents. Especially all the comments about race. I actually told a nosy elderly woman at Wal-Mart that I've never even saw Arianna's bio father before when A was about 7 months old and this woman asked me how dark my husband was in the middle of dealing with a cranky baby on a shopping trip. Shawn Auborn got a kick out of her reaction - especially since I was distracted and didn't realize how bad I worded my response.

hwagon on June 22, 2014:

I can't stop laughing! Well played!My hubby & I have heard all of those over the years. My favorite is "for the money", cuz ya know, if you can get a hellaciously tough job with no weekends or holidays off, or even pee breaks for that matter, that pays about a buck an hour... gee, who wouldn't go for that?!We have 2 little girls. They look nothing alike. We constantly get "Are they twins?". My answer? "Nope. Six weeks apart." For anyone nosey enough to continue the questioning I simply say, "Labor was hell." & leave them standing in aisle, befuddled.

jeffnjuanita-dewitt on June 22, 2014:

Are you Crazy !! You could be retired . Or the money one , How many cars do you need ? We are on the road alot with special needs kids , many appointments .Why do you want that for that kid ? Always fighting to get what the kids need with locals and state and Federal . Learning about the different problems and medical and emotional and etc.... Helps to make you a much better person .

blessedx10 on June 21, 2014:

My favorite (NOT!) "Do you think that's REALLY fair to your biological children? Those kids take up so much of your time!" Yep, so does sleeping, working, cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work...but we do those too!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on February 15, 2014:

The one about not meeting the black father cracked me up! Seriously -- I know you don't like hearing that the kids are lucky, and you are right, they are not, but they are indeed blessed to have found a home with you.In my youth, I placed a baby for adoption. I reconnected with her when she became an adult, and I met her adoptive parents. They were fine, wonderful people and I am so grateful that she was placed with a great family who could give her what I could not.

fullofshoes on February 10, 2014:

This lens is a classic. I love it and I'm going to forward it to a couple of adoptive/foster parents that I know who will really, really enjoy it... and will relate. Big applause.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on February 10, 2014:

That was supposed to be "you and yours" but my typing is as twisted as my tongue.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on February 10, 2014:

You are a saint. (Sorry but somebody had to say it.) Best wishes to your and yours.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on February 10, 2014:

As an adoptive mom for the past 15 years, and a former foster parent, I have heard everything you listed and quite a few more. People need to think first before they speak, and if they don't know what to say, just smile and don't say anything at all!

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