What Not to Say to Foster and Adoptive Parents

As a foster parent who helps and supports other foster parents through this blog about foster care, I get comments and questions all the time about how to support foster and adoptive parents. This comes in the form of hurt comments from foster parents from things their families have said. Or also family members have reached out and said I things like “I see my daughter who is a foster parent going through such a hard time, I want to help to support her, what can I do?”

Whether you are adopting through foster care, fostering only or are pursuing an international adoption these 7 comments or things people do and say may pop up.

Foster and Adoptive parents take a lot of training. We have a different perspective than the average person on the children in our care. We understand the need for good loving parents for these kids, the need to parent them differently due to their trauma and that we will always have to advocate for them.

We need the support of the people around us to walk this hard path, so even if you don’t directly or intentionally support foster families here are some things you can just NOT DO OR SAY.

Here are the 7 things not to do or say to Foster Parents and Foster Families.

  1. Don’t tell us horror stories. We know. We are parenting kids from hard places, kids with trauma and we have either done extensive training or continue our training on trauma parenting. We know the horror stories, we know the reasons these “horror stories” exist. We understand trauma much better than you. We know what we are getting into. Honestly, it is a very ignorant thing to say. Every child is different. I know we could be setting ourselves up for a lifetime of heartbreak as Rosie grows and turns from an adorable baby into a child with major trauma and behaviours from diagnoses and disorders.I choose to walk this path anyways and your negative horror stories do not give support in any way
  2. Don’t call us “saints” or “amazing people.” Personally, this makes me very uncomfortable. How do I respond Thank you? that feels awkward. No, I’m not? That seems dismissive. I understand that you are graciously recognizing that we are doing something good and I appreciate that, but I am not “saving” these kids. My answer is usually an awkward smile and a mumble about how these kids are worth it. Most foster parents simply see a need and feel compelled to help.Maybe change your wording to “I’m glad that you are helping our community and these kids” for me that is much easier to respond to because I am glad I am helping too.
  3. Don’t badmouth our bio families. Trust me we feel the anger, rage, sadness and broken heartedness about our kid’s situation and we feel those feelings hard. We deal with trauma, grief and unknowns every day. But the goal of foster care is always reunification and we need help to try and support these families, not hear negative words that put us back in a negative headspace. Trust me our mind goes there easily as we are the ones on the front line. Instead ask is there a way I can support you? Offer to babysit so foster parents can go on a date night after a hard court date or a hot meal for a foster family on a visit day.
  4. Don’t be nosy. We are under a confidentiality agreement. We cannot share these kids stories out of privacy and respect. Please do not prod. It is hard enough as it to try to keep it all the stories and emotions in so please respect that and respect the privacy of our kids and their families.
  5. Don’t ask us why we do this, why we put ourselves through the heartbreak. Trust me we wrestle with why we continue all the time. We have hard days where we want to quit. Don’t encourage that. There are not enough foster parents as is. These kids need more adults in their corner to help them to grow to be stable adults.
  6. Don’t say ” I couldn’t do what you do.” I understand and respect that this is coming out of a place of love and admiration but as foster parents, we already feel isolated and on a lonely journey. Those words only make us feel more lonely. The truth is many people could do what I do but choose not to. People do not want to live an uncomfortable life. They don’t want to be involved in other peoples messy lives but the truth is these kids need it and are worth it. I am not asking/hoping people will dedicate their whole life to foster care. But YOU could be the difference in ONE little person’s life. YOU could be the difference in changing the future of our world by fostering ONE child. Yes, some truly cannot due to their own traumatic pasts, financial or emotional situation but the vast majority of people could do this.
  7. Don’t treat our foster kids differently than our bio kids. If you offer to babysit, babysit them all. If you buy them Christmas gifts buy gifts for them all or not at all. Our foster kids are a part of our familiesfrom day one. They already feel different and we don’t need the people closest to us to intensify that feeling.