Kris’ Corner – Things NOT to Say to a Foster Parent or Child

by Gina Hays

As with all areas of life, there are things which are appropriate to say and things which are inappropriate to say…and this absolutely applies when talking to foster parents. Now…I am definitely willing to grace people out because I know that many of these things are said out of ignorance or out of just making idle chit-chat in line at the grocery or whatnot; typically, people aren’t giving their words much (if any) thought and no one is out to hurt someone intentionally.

At other times, things are said simply because people want to have connection with a foster family, but they simply do not know what to say, or how to ask appropriate questions.

And then there are the individuals who are digging for the dirt, and there is nothing about the conversation which will benefit the foster family; it will only serve to satisfy the morbid curiosity of the one asking the questions (can you tell this irks me?).

So mostly, here’s the advice I am giving to those of you who may be wondering about how to traverse the subject:

  • If you are out and about and you see a parent and child who do not appear to share genetics, don’t ask personal questions.
  • If you do know a parent and child, and know that they don’t share genetics, don’t ask personal questions.
  • If you would not like to be asked similar, imposing questions by a stranger or even an acquaintance, don’t ask these types of questions to other people.

Are you getting my drift here? Don’t ask personal questions. It’s no one’s business and even if someone don’t mean to be nosy, they still might be. In my personal experience, the only reason someone is probably asking me questions about my child or his biological family is to satisfy her own curiosity and not for the betterment of myself or my child. Most people may not realize this which is why I’m over here with my own little “Ted Talk” on the subject.

In a related, but more important, vein, not only should foster parents not be asked about personal details of the child’s story, neither should the child be asked. It’s not anyone’s business, and honestly the asking of such questions can be emotionally triggering for a child in foster care…and I am 100% certain that no one is intending to trigger anyone, especially a child in care. The child’s story is their story to share with whomever they want, whenever they want…not necessarily with the acquaintance at church or the stranger in line behind him at the grocery. And understandably a child might have a difficult time explaining that to an adult, so the child shares more about himself than they are comfortable doing…simply because an adult didn’t use appropriate boundaries.

By now you might be thinking, “What in the world is this woman talking about? What kinds of rude or inappropriate things have people said, especially to a child?” Well, don’t worry…I am here to give you a few examples, fresh from the moms in my foster care and adoption support group. Each one of these have been said or asked of a mom I know, and I’m certain there are many other rude or careless things they’ve heard which they’ve either chosen not to share or have forced themselves to forget about.

In no specific order, here are a few (there are definitely more, so please do not consider this a complete list by any means) of the rude and inappropriate things NOT to say to foster or adoptive parents or their children (and as an aside…they’re probably rude to say to anyone, not just foster families):

“His dad must be foreign.”

”Wow! You have your hands full!”

“What a big crew!” Usually followed up with, “You know what causes this, right?”

“Where did you get her from?”

“Do you talk to their REAL mom?”

“Wow! He sure doesn’t look like anyone in the family!”

“If no one wants her, we will sure take her.”

“She must get her coloring from her father!”

“Aww, your child is so beautiful…where is she from?”

“She’s so cute. Make sure her parents don’t see her all dolled up like that. They’ll want her back.”

“I cannot believe their parents didn’t want them.”

“So, was it drugs?”

“Are they all yours?”

“Oh, I could never do that. I would get too attached.”

“I would not be able to give them back.”

At this point, I am certain that by virtue of the fact that I have singled out the comments to stand on their own, you, my astute audience, can see why none of those things would be appropriate to say. Like ever.

Granted…have we all said stupid things at one point or another? Of course, and I don’t think that this blog post will eliminate all the hurtful and insensitive comments directed toward foster parents or the children in their care. That will obviously never happen.

My goal is to simply place it in the back of people’s minds so that IF a situation arises and a conversation with foster parents or a foster child ensues, the person who has read this will at least pause before saying something unintentionally hurtful or triggering.

Thanks for coming to my “Ted Talk.”

Sincerely,

Kris