The other day, someone on a Facebook support group asked the question, “What do I tell people when they ask questions about my foster kid’s past?” She commented that when they get new foster children everyone wants to know something about their past. Welcome to foster parenting. Everyone is curious; but, what can you do when the questions start?
Inform Friends and Family From the Very Beginning
Deb and I have found that this is the easiest way to minimize questions from friends and family. When we decided that we were doing foster care, we told our friends and family we would be getting foster kids in our home; we also told them that their past was private and that we cannot discuss their history with anyone. Before we had even gotten foster kids, our friends and family knew about the privacy of our potential foster kids, and they knew that we respected that privacy and intended to enforce that.
Did this eliminate all prying questions? No, but it did prevent a lot of them. Informing your friends from the very beginning is is an easy way to prevent hurt feelings. It puts you in control. Rather than waiting to see if anyone ever asks or hurting feelings when you have inform them that it’s none of their business. In fact, Deb and I simply say, “Hey, we’re getting new foster kids. Remember that we can’t talk about their past or history, so please don’t ask us.”
Answer other Questions Instead
It is human nature to be curious, and most people don’t know any foster parents. So, if someone asks you about one of your foster kids’ past or history, simply tell them that you can’t talk about that but you’d be happy to answer any of their questions about foster parenting. This has helped Deb and me. People aren’t really trying to be nosey, they’re just curious, so let them know what questions they can and can’t ask. And then, answer those.
Remember to be to be tactful in the way that you respond to questions. If you refuse to answer a question about your foster kid, they may be reluctant to ask anymore questions. Sometimes we say things like, “Well, I can’t answer that, but one thing that we can answer is how we got into doing foster care.” With this response, you are not giving up any private information, but you are still answering a question that they likely have. Divert from an off limits question, to one that you can answer.
There are people who will think that they have the right to know. Often teachers, principals, and church leaders will corner you and tell you that they need to know about your foster kid’s past. Be firm and tell them that you cannot and will not divulge any of your foster kid’s past information. I have had teachers and principals ask me things like, “What kind of a home did this kid come from?” or, “Do they have a history of abuse?” I’ve even been told things like, “I need to know so I can protect the other students,” or “You can tell me, I’m the principal.” To combat this, sometimes you have to say, “I can’t answer your question, but if you’d like, you could call the caseworker.” Be firm. Refuse to brake confidence. By sending further questions to the caseworker, you follow the rules, and you leave it up to the caseworker as to what they want and can share.
Why is this a Big Deal?
Keep in mind that a lot of foster kids are judged by what they have done, or what has happened to them, in the past. Your foster kids deserve a fresh start; make sure they get it. Usually people are pretty respectful once they understand. But, if you have to, be firm.