May is foster care awareness month. Here at Fostering Hope, we care deeply for children who may be experiencing foster care and their families. In honor of foster care awareness month, some of us will be sharing how our lives and families have been touched by foster care and a few of the lessons we have learned along the way.
Beth Feger, Ph. D.
In February of 2013, two precious children arrived at our home. We had fostered before and knew the goal for them was to be reunified with their family, but as the case progressed it became clear this was not going to be an option for them.
After much prayer, we decided to move forward with adoption. We had the support of a strong community and the encouragement of their team. While the journey has not always been easy, we see daily God at work in and through our family. Like many who create families in non-typical ways, people are often curious about how our family was created.
I love sharing our story but, sometimes well-meaning people can ask personal or inappropriate questions.
After we adopted our two little ones, we were at church when someone asked if our children were “real siblings”. I think she wanted to know if they were biologically related, so I shared the truth. But years later, I still feel uncomfortable about it. I wish I had said, “Yes, they are ‘real’. They have hearts and minds and love each other. Your question about their biological background is personal and not my information to share. You see my kids have already lost so much in their lives, I cannot take away one of the few things they still have, their story.”
I understand this might be uncomfortable for the curious question asker, so here are a few suggestions for folks to better interact with those involved in caring for children experiencing foster care.
Choosing Compassionate Words
Use person first language. We are caring for a child experiencing foster care, not a foster child.
My children are not orphans. They have biological parents who love them, but were not able to care for them, and adoptive parents who love them and care for them every day.
Questions about their parents’ situation are personal. My children love their biological families, asking questions about what may have led to them being in foster care may be painful. Do not ask: was their mom on drugs? Will you get to adopt them?
I am not a hero. I am a human parent, with the same worries and fears as most parents. I am tired and sometimes frustrated by a confusing system. Like you, I do my best but, often fail.
Adoption is complicated. When children are adopted from foster care, their relationship to their biological family has been permanently severed. While we love our kids, we know our family has been created from loss.
If you want to better support foster families, try these instead.
Tell me about your family. I would love to tell you about my amazing kids and God’s hand in creating my family.
How are feeling about that? I have complicated feelings about foster care and adoption. I may or may not want to share the details.
We love you. Is there anything we can do to support? Or even: Can I bring dinner? fold laundry? plan a play date for our kids?
What to say when we get it wrong? I am sorry. Thank you for taking the time to help me understand.