When my husband and I decided becoming foster parents was our path to parenthood, we weren’t sure how everyone would react. Some parents have a hard time hearing that their adult children are not going to have the traditional path to parenthood. Lucky for us, our family was supportive and excited. Throughout the process of becoming certified and waiting for the right foster children for our home, we thought of ourselves as expectant parents.
Some friends and acquaintances were less than certain of how to react. So, here are some of the things people tend to say about becoming a foster parent and what you can say instead.
People say, “Those kids are going to be so lucky to have you.” Kids in foster care have all gone through trauma. It is never lucky to be in a situation where your biological parents can’t care for you, to be taken away without your consent and placed in a home with strangers.
Instead say, “You’re going to be wonderful parents!” This gets the same sentiment across without implying that these children are lucky to be going through the trauma of separation from their bio family. It lets your friends know you believe in them and are rooting for them. If your friend is already a parent, try saying, “That’s so exciting! I can’t wait to see your family grow.” This lets them know you are happy for them and that you understand that foster children are a part of the family.
People say, “Is it because you can’t have kids of your own?” I can assure you, those who choose to become foster parents have put a great deal of thought into it. For some, there may be painful reasons that are very personal like infertility and child loss. For others, it could just be the path they want to take. But they will offer this information on their own if they want you to know.
Instead say, “What are you most excited about?” This shows your friend that you’re interested in learning more about the process and what their hopes are for the future.
People say, “It’s just different when you have your own children.” I thought I wouldn’t have to tell people not to say this, but I guess I do. This statement implies that a bond with a bio child is stronger than a bond with a foster or adopted child. The love I feel for the children in my home is as great as any love I’ve ever felt. Every mother connects to her child and that connection is just as special for foster and adoptive moms.
Instead say, “You will be amazed at how much love you feel as a parent. It’s such a special connection.” If someone is fostering they are preparing to share love with a child during one of the most difficult times in that child’s life. It may not be love at first sight. But love can and does grow and consume your life in the most beautiful way. So reassure them, give them something to look forward to.
People say, “Are you going to get a baby?” Many people who want babies think foster care is the affordable way to have one. But foster care is not just for babies, and foster parents are asked to be open to a wider range of ages because the need is so great.
Instead say, “What age are you open to take in?” Most foster parents have an age range they feel prepared for. Foster parents who already have biological children may not want to take in a child who is older than the bio children. Other’s might be looking for school-aged children who will be close in age to the kids they have. Some may be looking to help teenagers because that age speaks to them. Whatever the case, this question can be followed up with advice on how to prepare for children of that age.
People say a lot of things with good intentions that they probably shouldn’t have said. Please don’t let the fear of not saying the right thing keep you from talking to friends about fostering. You can always apologize for saying something wrong.
If you want to support a friend who is becoming a foster parent, share in their excitement, listen to their fears and concerns, and text them to let them know you’re thinking about them. And if you have great parenting advice, let them know! You may not have advice on helping a child through trauma-induced fight or flight reactions, but you can share your tips on potty training! Remember, just like any parent they will wake up in the morning and get their kids ready for their day. They will keep them fed and clean and safe. So talk to them about the kids like you would any other parent.
When you acknowledge that foster parents are real parents you show them that you love them. So please, never say, “are those your real kids?” to a foster parent. Families come in so many shapes and sizes and foster families are real families.