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 stratum (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.