How To Support Foster and Adoptive Families~
1. Realize that we aren't doing foster care or adopting, so we can make you feel inferior!
2. Realize that we love EACH child who comes into our hearts and homes, and we always will.
3. Don't insult us for following case plans, therapist's recommendations, doctor's orders or birth parents wishes. We respectfully remind you, IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!
4. Don't tell us we are "Saints" for doing something "you could never do." It doesn't make us feel good and it doesn't make our children feel good. We don't want to be praised and put on a pedestal for loving our kids. Do you? We certainly don't want our children to be made to feel like they are poor, pathetic souls who are just lucky we "rescued" them. Would you like us to make you or your children feel this way?
5. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK! (Just because it sounds good to you, doesn't mean it will be taken that way!) Put yourself in our shoes and the shoes of the children who are standing right by us when you speak!
6. Don't ask questions like: "Do you have any of your own?" " Which ones are you REAL kids?" "Which country is he/she from?" "What's wrong with him/her?" "Was her mother/father on drugs?", "How much did he/she cost? And don't wave your finger around at my family, while saying "How did this happen?" And most certainly, don't refer to the birth mothers of our children in any kind of negative light. Just because you are ignorant and judgmental, doesn't mean we are. We love the birth parents of our children. We will NOT tolerate your speaking about them as if they are slime. On the contrary...we will vigilantly defend them and the fact that regardless of the choices they've made in their lives, they still loved and did the best they could for their children. Oh!...and ANOTHER THING! In case your mother never taught you...it is absolutely rude and disgusting, to ask questions that involve the words "couldn't keep their pants zipped." (Sorry! Has to be said! And, Yes, I was asked that very question!)
7. Don't PET our children's hair, like they are animals! Would you like it if someone treated you like a dog? On the contrary, respect the fact that we and our children take pride in their appearance and that it takes a LONG time to make their hair look that way!
8. Don't expect us to understand and/or condone your ignorance! While we are nice people and enjoy talking about the wonderful ways our children became ours, this doesn't mean that you can ask stupid or rude questions and expect us to brush it aside as "acceptable." It's NOT! I reserve the right to gape my mouth wide open at you, and look at you in shock and disbelief, when you ask questions that cross the line! AND I WILL!
9. Be supportive! (Let me define "supportive".) Be NORMAL! Don't create issues that don't exist, and don't downgrade issues that DO! If you are a family member or a friend of someone who has adopted children, be kind. Be courteous and respectful. Feel free to ask, genuine, well meaning questions, but please be careful of what you say or ask in front of our children. They have ears and they are smart! Think about how your words will affect them. And ABOVE ALL---please respect our right to raise our children as we see fit! Don't lecture us in front of our children, and don't insult our way of life either! In fact, don't lecture us, PERIOD!
10. Don't say "I could never do what YOU do!", unless you're prepared to not be offended when we answer back "Of course you could!" When we respond that way, it's not to offend you, but rather to instill confidence in all we meet, that foster care and adoption are not only do-able things, but also to spread our belief and hope that it's a worthy cause so that others will want to do it too! There are so many children who need good parents (foster or adoptive or both)!
11. Show Up! Show up for things that are important! Here is a brief list of things that you could "show up" for, which might seem like nothing to you, but which mean everything to us:
~ Court Hearings (especially adoption court hearings!) When that judge finally bangs that gavel and declares our children "legally' ours, it's a big deal! BE THERE! (Can you imagine loving and serving your children every day of their lives with that constant possibility that they could leave, looming over your head?) They've been ours in every way but the one that really counts, from the moment they came. SHOW UP!
~ Surgeries and Hospital Visits for kiddo's! It's really hard to sit in waiting room, after waiting room by yourself and cry by the side of your child's bed in the recovery room, alone. Learn about the children and the issues and challenges they face. Learn to care for them, so as to provide trusted support to us parents who need a break once in a while. We will NOT leave our children with you, if we feel that you don't know them and their issues, and if we feel that you won't follow instructions or that you question ours or our doctor's orders or intentions for our children. We will also not leave our children with you, if you treat us as their parents, as though we are paranoid, or their issues are only in our heads! Just because we have adopted our children into part of YOUR family, does not mean that you automatically have a right to have them whenever you want. That right is only EARNED!
~ Show up for the births of children who are adopted through private adoption. (Why wouldn't you?)
~ Show Up for training! Be willing to listen and learn about ways to care for the children or about the medical/behavioral issues they face. Again...we won't leave them with you, if you don't.
12. Don't EVER say: "You shouldn't expect us to be supportive of you...YOU chose this, not us!" HOW RUDE! Honestly! If you are the family member or friend of someone who has chosen to do foster care and/or adopt, don't assume that we must ask your permission or approval for what we are doing, Last I checked, doing foster care and adopting children is a very honorable thing! Do your other family members or friends ask your permission before getting pregnant? SERIOUSLY! If you can't support us and the issues that our children face, then SAY IT! Then...kindly leave us alone! You can't have your cake and eat it too! While we're on this subject...don't ask adoptive families if they're quite sure they can't "have one of their own" or if they're "doing it" right! Unless of course you are okay with my response, which will be "Did you want to bring a flashlight over and let us know?" (Again, had to be said!)
13. BE EXCITED for us! We are excited about what we're doing! We want our family members and friends to be excited about it too! If you can't be excited about what we're doing...then frankly there's something wrong with you! We are changing the world! We are loving those who the world would toss aside! Oh...and BY THE WAY...WE are the ones who are being saved! OUR CHILDREN saved us! It's NOT the other way around!
14. Realize that families can come in all colors, sizes and dynamics! Teach your children that brown kids can in fact have a white mom and/or dad, and vice versa! Teach your children that it's not polite for them to tell my children that they aren't siblings. They ARE! One thing I teach my children to say, is "Our hearts match!" And really, there are lots of biological families where the members of those families look nothing alike. Think outside the BOX!
15. Take an opportunity to learn about the issues that are important to foster and adoptive families! Ignorance is not bliss! It's hurtful and ridiculous!
16. Contrary to popular belief, us foster/adoptive families are NOT in fact wearing signs on our foreheads, which state "Please tell me EVERYTHING you feel about my life and my choices! Please realize that your opinions are just that! If you can't say something nice (or respectful or supportive)...then don't say anything at all.
OH, and one more thing! If you find yourself in a situation where you can't or WON'T support a family member or friend who has chosen to adopt or do foster care or both...Don't be surprised when we feel hurt, unsupported or angry about it! Supporting us is not rocket science! It's common courtesy and decency! It's showing love for your fellow man! It's realizing that there is more to life than just YOU! It's what families and friends do for one another!
Written by Ranee Hansen