Just when we thought we were done engaging in foster care as foster parents, a family we are already connected with needed some help and we needed to be there for them. Now after just potty training our 3-year-old and getting him to successfully sleep through the night we are back to diapers and sleepless nights with a little one.
It seems that everywhere we go someone is saying “congratulations” on the new little one. Sometimes it’s a stranger at the grocery store and I get it, they have no idea about the situation which brought this baby to us – likely they assume he is a newly born member of the family. Yet even friends and family who know that this baby was placed with us via foster care have shared similar sentiments.
I find it difficult to respond to these congratulatory expressions knowing there is in all reality nothing to celebrate about the situation this little guy and his family find themselves in. This family was unable to stay intact – hopefully just for the time being and months from now I will have a beautiful post to write about his reunification, but for now, they are separated from each other and I can not find any celebration in that.
If congratulations are not in order when a foster family is placed with a new little one, what is the appropriate response? I’m so glad you asked – perhaps a more appropriate response would be simply to say “what a beautiful baby” or “can I take a peek at that precious new little one?” or what every foster family loves to hear “what a beautiful family you have”.
I fully realize that unless you have engaged in foster care as foster parents you likely do not have the
words to express what you want to say and I am certainly not telling you to avoid our families or say nothing. If you don’t know what to say in response to a foster family and a new child they have welcomed in or said goodbye to, or adopted… just ask or express that you don’t know what is appropriate to say. When placed with this new little guy one family member said just that – that she didn’t know what to say and let me tell you that we felt more seen by her comment of not knowing what to say than many others who have filled the space with insensitive sentiments.
Foster parents need you. We need you to be with us, to speak to the beauty of our families but to do so with a sensitivity to a difficult and broken situation that you don’t know the details of. Don’t be afraid to tell us you don’t know what to say, don’t be afraid to sit with us as we process through the way a new child affects the operations of the family or cry with us in our mental and emotional exhaustion. And if you worry that you have said the wrong thing to foster parents, believe me, I was there with you before we began this journey. You don’t understand what you don’t know and while we can not sh
are details of our kid’s cases we can share general information to help you better understand the complexities of foster care. Hang in there with us friends and family, please be willing to learn alongside us because we need you.