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Fostering FAQ: What's Her (Mom's) Story?

This is probably the second most common question I hear about the baby currently in our care, right after, "Will you keep her?"

It comes in many forms:

"So, what's her story?"
"Is her mom in the picture?"
"How did she end up in your home?
"Is her mom a drug addict?"
"How could a mom not love such a cute baby!"

I get it. It's natural curiousity, and I know I've asked similar questions of my friends who are adoptive parents.

Who wouldn't be curious about this sleepy little bear!?

But here's what I'm learning: a child's story is their own. And equally as important, the parent's story is their own.

Imagine how it might feel to hear that for the foreseeable future, you are not allowed to care for your child. On top of whatever difficult circumstances you are already in - perhaps poverty, social isolation, lack of adequate housing, domestic violence, intergenerational trauma, drug or alcohol dependency, low cognitive functioning, or a myriad of other complex struggles - you now experience the loss of your children. There's grief, anger, guilt, shame.

I've been entrusted with information, yes. But it doesn't belong to me, and it isn't loving to either the child or the parent for me to share their struggles and pain. We know the child's background so that we're able to care well for them, to help them learn and process their own story, and to support their family to the best of our abilities. Beyond that - each human has the right to privacy, to choose self-disclosure when it is their desire, and to be protected from the gossip or judgment of others.

It's what I want for myself. It's what I want to offer to others...something, to be honest, I struggle with. I am extremely curious, inquisitive. I always want to know peoples' stories, especially the unusual ones. Learning to keep my curiosity to myself is something I still trip over.

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When you're curious about a child in care, here's what you can assume to be true about their story:

  1. The parent is struggling with profoundly difficult circumstances.
  2. The child and their parent are both experiencing the trauma of loss and separation.
  3. The parent loves their child, even if they aren't currently able to provide a safe home for them, or if their behaviour doesn't communicate that love.
  4. The foster parent knows the family's story, but can't share much of it with you.
  5. The foster parents are on a complex journey with the child and their biological parents (and several social workers) - they are a team looking to navigate the family history and build a healthy future for the child. 
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Next up: "So what do you actually do as a foster parent?"

Comments

Katie V. said…
Great post! I am the inquisitive type who needs to be reminded that my wanting to know something doesn't give me the *right* to know it. Thanks for offering a safe home/space for that lovely little one.
Tracy said…
There is so much we cannot make sense of in our foster / adoptive children's stories. Sometimes there isn't a way to piece together the realities that the brokenness of this world brings and make it understandable. I think it's best said that in parenting "Love is not enough". And while it might be impossible to really comprehend it all, I'm so thankful that God redeems and restores the brokenness of our lives - and the lives of those little blessings he gives us through our chosen children. Great posts, Beth! Keep 'em coming!

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