Monday, May 21, 2012

Well, They Don't Look Like Foster Kids...

Ever since I have become a foster parent, introducing my little crew is interesting.  I have settled on steering the conversation away from the children and towards my decision to be a foster parent.  Unlike the kids, I choose this life.  Then, if appropriate, I tell them first names and simply say they are living with me.  If they ask more questions, the response is, I'd rather not share or that's private.

Yet, some people don't get the hint and continue asking questions.  Lots of awkward questions.

But, one of the strangest things I hear repeatedly is, "Well, they don't look like foster kids..."  I am never quite sure what to say by that, or what they even mean.

On my generous days, I say "Yeah they sure are cute aren't they?" and move on.    On my not so generous days, I go completely silent because I can't say what I am thinking in my mind.  Because it is at this point that an internal diatribe ensues...

First of all, I never said they were foster kids.  I said I was a foster parent.  You assumed.  It is just as likely that they are my nieces or nephews who are staying with me.  Secondly, What do you mean by they don't look like foster kids....?  Is it because they are cute?  Because they are white?  Because they are clean, well groomed and well dressed?  Well behaved?

It is a huge misconception to think you can tell who is in or isn't in foster care based on appearance.  Foster children do not have "a look".   Period.

Children come into the foster care system out of no fault of their own and they come from every conceivable lifestyle and background.   Including, every religious background (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Native Tribal, agnostic, atheist), every ethnicity (white, brown and everything between), every socioeconomic strata (the richest of rich to the poorest of poor).

As far as the cuteness factor of kids, every foster parent I know takes great pride assuring every child is clean, dressed well and just as cute as possible.  Not because they are different from every other child, but because they are the same.  Personally, my standard is that I would never put something on a foster child that I wouldn't put on a child of my womb.

So, I haven't come to a decision on what to say to this question on the spot, but maybe something along the lines of,  "No, they don't look like foster kids, they just look like kids.  Just kids.  Because that is what they are.  Kids."

My hope is that one person at a time will meet my wonderful kids and learn that we are to treat ALL people with respect, honor and love.


*Have you come up with something better to say?  What is the most awkward question you hear as a foster/adoptive parent?  I'd love to hear it!  You can comment below.

7 comments :

  1. Alisa, I wish they did just see us as kids, but no one ever does. Not when we are small and not when we are grown. We are different.

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    1. @LORI - Yeah, its too true Lori. There is a good healthy acknowledging of the difference, then there is the ignorant assumptions by many of the difference. I pursued your blog and it is so enlightening to read your posts - keep it up.

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    2. My blog goes completely private as of Sunday. I have too many issues with my daughter stalking and behaviors to continue. But I will continue to follow yours. Thank you for writing about us like we are real people.... we are.

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    3. @LORI - Your welcome. It pains me that people don't treat everyone like real people, cause if we aren't real, what exactly are we?! I will be sad to see your blog go, I love how honest you are about everything. It is a hard thing for me to be that open. There are a few posts in particular I would love to feature here (anonymously, or however you want to be credited). Let me know if your interested and I can shoot you an email with what posts I am talking about. If not, I will be hoping for some positive movement with your daughter - sounds like its been a long, long road.

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  2. It is always SO awkward when people ask me "So what do you have HIM for? Drugs?" As if that's something they have a right to know, and then they act offended when I won't say!

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    1. I like to remind people that there IS a reason kids are in FC, but the specifics are personal. You would think people would get this, but yeah, the annoyed/offended look is a tough one. Sometimes I would like to say, "Well, you know that horrible, awful thing in your past that only your best friends know about, would you like that to be part of your introduction from now on with strangers? I think not." And walk away. Some day. :)

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  3. I had someone ask me the other day which were my real kids.. I replied that they all were. She replied, "You know what I mean - REALLY yours." Oh, the thoughts running through my head. Because they're all siblings and none are adopted or from a different family I just said they were all siblings and left it at that. I kind of got the feeling that they were suddenly "less than real" in her mind. I try so hard to avoid this, but some people just insist on going there...

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It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa