One role of a foster parent which isn’t often discussed is that of “keeper of the story”. And what I mean by that is that as a foster parent, you are tasked with preserving and holding the story of the child entrusted to your care…
So what IS the big deal about the story behind the how and why your child came to live with you? Why should a foster parent “hold” it? Well, first of all, and dare I say most importantly, that story belongs to the child.
Of course, as a foster parent (and possibly adoptive parent), you have stepped into that story and have your own role in it. But what I am talking about primarily is everything that happened prior to that, all the events leading up to a child’s removal, the “good, the bad and the ugly” events…those details and that part of the story belongs to the child. Period.
It is the child’s story to tell, if he chooses, and to whom he chooses. It’s not our place to share. Even if they are events the child could never remember, such as the ones which happened to our son, because the child is so young at the time of removal. I will say that their bodies remember the trauma and neglect, even if their brains do not…but that it possibly a topic for another post.
One thing I regret, from early on in our foster parenting, was not guarding our foster children’s stories. It was mind-blowing to me, and probably would be to you, the things I was hearing about the cases of these children. What has been done, or not done. Things the biological parents had done, or not done. They are unimaginable to most of us. And so that shock factor, and let’s be totally honest with ourselves…the juicy gossip factor…often leads people to share, myself included. Not just share, but definitely over-share.
All that to say, it was not my place to do. The stories belong to my foster children (and now specifically to my son), and not to me.
I try to think of it in these terms: suppose you have this secret, and maybe it is not something that you did, but something that was done to you…and you found out that a bunch of people know about it. People you didn’t tell, people whom you maybe would not have chosen to tell, had the option been given to you.
But yet they know. How would that make you feel? And how would it make you feel to find out that the people who are supposed to love and protect you the most are the ones that shared that information about you? You’d be crushed, right? So how would kids from hard places feel?
I get it. The shock value of many of these cases is huge. It’s incredibly difficult to comprehend the things that we have heard over the years. It’s unimaginable what foster parents sometimes learn about biological families and things done behind closed doors. But that does not justify sharing (or especially over-sharing) a child’s story.
Just a little something to chew on…