The REAL Truth About Foster Parents…

2015-12-03 09.27.16 (2) (592x640)They are AMAZING! Trust me, I know! I work with these people, I have been cared for by these people, and I have been one of these people. They are, by and large, an extraordinary group of human beings.

Foster parents often get a bad rep by society. You want to know mostly why that is? It’s simple…

They are doing something that most people wouldn’t do. Which leads people to make assumptions.

The “assumer” either decide that:

A. The foster parent is saintly and has achieved some level of altruism that mere humans could never attain, or…

B.  The foster parent is “off their rocker” crazy! Besides, who would willingly subject themselves to the pain of helping children from terrible situations and risk having to return a child to that situation?

CRAZY people, that’s who! (Whew. Glad we figured that out and can move about our merry business.)

But, I’m not going to let us do that because…

We have a few more of my favorite stereotypes to explore.

Take, for instance, the things people come up with to make sense of how or why foster parents are willing to take kids that they might have to give back. And give back to those people, nonetheless! (Cue the judgmental nose crinkle)

There is obviously only one logical answer here. These foster parent people must have some kind of immunity to heartbreak. Or they just absolutely don’t have a heart. At least not a BIG one.

I can see all those knowing smirks as you foster parents anticipate what I’m about to say. You have heard it one too many times. Yes, I’m talking about the classic, “I could never be a foster parent. My heart is just too big!”

One of the foster mammas I trained likes to reply by saying, “Well, I’m glad my heart is just the right size.”

(Yes, it is, my foster hero. Absolutely ENORMOUS x 30!)

But let’s move on because I truly believe that 90% of the time, the “big heart” comment is made innocently. I think it’s what people say as they wrestle within themselves about whether they could ever take on such a difficult job.

So here it is: THE WORST comment that comes from the lips of those who do not understand… (Often asked out of the side of the mouth as though the child, who is standing nearby, cannot hear)…

“So, exactly how much money do you make from taking these kids?”

WOW!

Yes, people ask this. And yes, they ask it just like that. Sometimes, they ask it loudly, right in front of the child.

Oftentimes, these people are asking because they are interested in fostering, and this is obviously an important question to them. Other times, people ask this because they are trying to figure out just how much money it takes to prompt someone to do something as “crazy” as foster parenting. There must be a payoff to take on this insane job, right?

There absolutely is, and I’ll get to that in a minute!

But first, let me defend society on this one. Unfortunately, many people have crossed paths with that one foster parent that has put a bad taste in their mouth. That one who brags to everyone about this “type” of child bringing in more money than that “type” of child, They might even do this with the child standing nearby. Here’s what I have to say to that…

DISGUSTING! NEVER, EVER, EVER TALK ABOUT CHILDREN THIS WAY!

Do not talk about children as though you are selling cattle or making a slave trade. It makes the rest of us foster people look bad. And it sends the message to the child that the more dysfunctional they are, the more they are worth to you.

Trust me, they are listening to what you say and watching how you spend their money for evidence that they are as “expendable” as they have always felt. Don’t put a dollar sign on their head and force them to compound it with the interest of being dysfunctional enough- therefore, worth enough- for you to keep them. This is not how we change the world, folks!

This does bring us to our next question, though. Do people need compensation to care for some of the intense needs they often open their home to?

ABSOLUTELY! Let me tell you why.

Many of these people have to quit their jobs to take care of the enormous “special needs” that are sent their way.

Quit their jobs and stay home with kids all day! That’s sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

It does until you stop by that foster mamma’s house and see her dark and sunken eyes from the tri-nightly wakings of her traumatized child’s screams. It does until you watch as she changes the ostomy bag of a child with disability for the 6th time that day. It does until you sit with her on suicide watch for her severely depressed teen or until you help her clean up the spaghetti that her previously starved foster son felt the need to hide under his bed for later consumption.

Talk to her about her lovely, lazy day then. I’m sure she will hand you a form to sign up! Maybe even offer you to take the child!

But no- she won’t. She may entertain the thought, but she won’t follow through on it because she loves a child in a way that others cannot understand.

So this brings me back to that discussion of “payoff.” I hope you are starting to see what the “payoff” is for our foster parents. It is a 24/7 work week filled with impossibly hard circumstances, accruing the interest of a character building exercise that most people could never sustain…

The interest of learning to push away all desires to self-protect and control things that we cannot.

The interest of becoming aware of our own inadequacies.

Most importantly, the interest of embracing the reality that we are not inherently better than any other human being- just less broken than some and carrying better tools to fix our brokenness.

Foster parents are people that have chosen to step down off the platform of their own lives and bust out their tools to help others build a stairwell to their own greatness.

Let me tell you the REAL truth about foster parent, folks. They are some of the most selfless, humble, and brave human beings you will ever meet!

 

 

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Liz Hunter

Liz is a Social Worker, Foster Alum, Adoptee, Foster & Adoptive Parent, Writer, & Public Speaker. She is currently in the process of publishing a memoir, chronicling her 15 year journey to adoption and the 7 years she spent in the American foster care system. Her degree specializations are Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, & Criminal Justice. She founded Foster Noise/Adopt Peace in hopes of creating a forum to elevate the voices of the real life heroes and survivors of the foster care system.

2 Comments

  • Vanessa Espinoza says:

    Thank you for this! I don’t get too many crazy questions as to why I’m a foster parent, but I do get them. Sometimes it really surprises me when I get comments from people that are at my church that I’m a member at. Most times they are like why don’t you just have your own kids or the other main question is the child you have drug exposed. But I nicely tell them why I do it and I still think why I do it is right for me then I educate them on how many children are in need of more foster parents in their/our community. I’m happy to share this read.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      It’s such a counterculture decision- especially if someone signs up who chooses to forego having birth children- that I think most people asking questions are just trying to make sense of it. People need to carefully consider how those questions are received by the child in care. Probably one of the most hurtful things asked for the child is, “Which ones are your ‘real’ children?” or “Is he your ‘real’ child?” This question leads to a deep sense of disconnection and alienation for kids in care. Oftentimes, the person asking has always been able to take for granted his/her own sense of family heritage and has no idea how dehumanizing this question is. I’m glad there are people out there like you who are willing to answer these questions with the intention to educate. Knowledge is our best defense against thoughtlessness and ignorance. Keep changing lives, Vanessa!

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