Tough Conversations – Explaining Foster Care to Children

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I truly never thought I would be having a conversation about foster care with my kids. I’ve always known the need for foster families, but I’d be lying if I said that I had any intentions of opening up our home while my children were still little.

In fact, if family circumstances hadn’t forced us to take the plunge, I’m confident that my husband and I would not have been brave enough to jump in with both feet.

But I’m so glad we did.

Foster care is scary and uncomfortable. But it’s also a blessing and completely eye opening and life changing.

When we began the foster care process, I knew we would have to have a tough conversation with my children about what foster care is. I knew my kids most likely had never heard the words “foster care”, and I was nervous that the idea would frighten them.

Because really, how do you explain foster care to children who have grown up fairly sheltered and privileged?

While I definitely do not have all of the answers, these are the five main points I emphasized while explaining foster care to my kids:

1. I didn’t go into abuse or neglect.

In fact, I didn’t even mention it. My children are young and I didn’t think it would be age appropriate to discuss this with them. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty, I focused on the importance of safety. Simply put, I told my children that babies and kids were coming to live with us so we could help take care of them until the children’s parents found a safe home and living environment for them.

Hand-in-hand with this, I would never want to mention anything that could be seen as negative about the birth parents. The goal of foster care is reunification. Because of this, we don’t say anything that might be misconstrued as negative about the foster child’s parents, mainly because I don’t want my children to feel worried for the children when foster care is successful and the children reunify.

2. I told them the stays were temporary.

Again, reunification is always the goal. I didn’t want my kids to get their hopes up or be under the impression that the children that come to live with us would be with us forever. I explained that the foster kids could be with us for any amount of time: a day, a week, or even a year.

I explained that the foster children were just staying with us until their caseworker had helped their parents find a safer living situation. I explained that we WANT them to go back and that while we would miss our new friends, it’s happy when reunification occurs.

3. I explained that the foster children’s behaviors might be different than theirs.

I explained that the kids that were coming to live with us all came from different homes that had different rules and different situations. I explained that the foster children might act out differently, for example, they might not want to share food, and they might cry more than we’re used to. I told my children that this was all okay and normal and that we were going to help them work through it. (My children witnessed this first hand when we had the most precious beautiful child placed with us, who also happened to have a mouth that could make a sailor blush.)

4. I explained that we might not know a whole lot of information about the kids.

We might not know their middle name, we probably wouldn’t know their parents, and that the kids could be from a different town than ours. We most likely wouldn’t know their favorite colors, their favorite foods, or anything like that until we got to know them better. Just like making a new friend.

This was slightly concerning to my daughter, because she wanted to make sure we knew their birth date so we knew when to throw them a huge birthday party – even bigger than the parties they have. I assured her that we would know more information as the children’s caseworker figured more out about their situation.

5. I told them we are doing this for Jesus.

We truly believe that foster care is near to the Lord’s heart. We’re clothing and feeding and loving kids who come from tough situations. We explained that sharing their friends, their toys, and their parents with other children can be difficult at times, but they are doing God’s work and helping a child during a scary time for them.

Ultimately, as tough as it was to start the foster care conversation, I’ve been completely blown away by how my children have handled becoming a foster family. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Britnie, this is such a great article on foster care.
    I commend you for the way you have approached the subject with your own children.
    God bless you and Chris for sharing your home with those who need a home for a while.
    Love you all!

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