5 Stigmas About Foster Care Children and Foster Parents

Memorial Day BBQ’s, camping trips, and the longing for summer weather are typical assimilations with the month of May, but not many people realize that May is also National Foster Care Month.

After seeing two of my nephews grow up in foster care, I attempt to relate to the circumstances and realities fostered children live through day-by-day. Although I’ve never experienced living in a foster home, I’ve witnessed a lot of what my nephews dealt with while in the foster care system.

 It’s important to realize there are still many unwarranted stigmas aimed at foster kids as well as foster parents. Fostered youth enter the system through no fault of their own. These children have been taken away from their homes and families because they have had to endure abuse, neglect, and/or other factors.

 Negative stigmas that still exist today only add to the wave of difficult situations that fostered children face. The following misconceptions regarding foster kids and foster parents must not be bypassed. They are as disheartening as they are damaging and need to be reversed.

 Foster Kids are Likely to Be Bullies

Two of my nephews lived up in a home that was not suitable for children at the time they were growing up. They experienced difficulties that many people will never face. My nephews’ lives were immensely complicated, especially compared to most grade school kids. Growing up, they didn’t have proper care or a safe space to call their own while living with their biological parents.

Without living through a similar circumstance, it’s basically impossible to imagine what that must feel like. They had to constantly move and live with many unfamiliar people in foster care. This all meant starting fresh at new schools. And that unfortunately equated to frequently being labeled as ‘the new kids.’

 Take a moment to think about the reasons why kids are bullied at school. Those who are perceived as different are usually targets for school kids. Children can be cruel to other children, especially when they don’t comprehend how heavy an experience such as foster care can weigh on a child. Kids will poke fun at those who are less fortunate than they are.

For some reason people assume that fostered youth are more likely to be bullies. However, kids facing instability and sporadic living situations are much more likely to be bullied themselves.

 My nephews were bullied all the time simply for being different. Fortunately, bullying doesn’t always go unheard. Thankfully, school counselors fulfill an important role within the education system, as do social workers. They both mentor and guide students through difficult experiences  and approach wrongdoings such as bullying.

 Foster Care is a Form of Punishment for Bad Kids

It’s simply incorrect to assume that foster kids are automatically troublemakers or that they are part of the system because they are problematic. Foster kids are not delinquents, they are kids searching for a safe environment to live and grow in.

A study titled Does placing children in foster care increase their adult criminality? elaborates on the link between males first put into foster care ages 13-18 and increased crime rates. There is most commonly an association between crime and fostered young adults due to their upbringing and the other harsh realities of the foster care system which are beyond the youths’ control.

According to the study, there is no significant link between age/gender groups and increased criminal behaviors outside of males who have entered foster care for the first time during adolescence.

 And even then, they grew up in less than ideal ways and simply want to be safe and comfortable. They need stability and love like everyone else does, not harsh stigmas and toxic assumptions.

 Foster Kids are Usually Minorities

 For some reason it is regularly presumed that minorities are more frequently involved in foster care living situations. However, that is certainly not what the facts point out. Kids in foster care are actually racially/ethnically diverse.

According to recent data, approximately 42 percent of children in foster care are White, 26 percent are Black, 21 percent are Hispanic, and the remaining 9 percent are multiracial (6 percent), American Indian (2 percent), and Asian (1 percent).

So the next time you hear a person say something about foster kids always being minorities, kindly point out to them that they are not only incorrect, they are projecting racism.

 Foster Parents are Just in It for the Money

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been in foster care myself. I’ve also never been a foster parent. Since I lack the direct personal experience, I’ve turned to a powerful article written by a longtime foster parent, Jill Rippy.

In Rippy’s piece titled, I Foster for the Money, she opens by expressing that foster parents are often asked if they just do it for the money. Rippy’s response is powerful and paints a vivid picture for anyone doubting the genuineness of foster parents:

 “That $1.05 an hour makes it all worth it…

 -When I pick children up at midnight and have to take them to the hospital for sexual assault exams

 -When a child comes to my home with lice, and I have to spend four hours treating, combing and picking nits all while trying to be silly and laugh so she doesn’t feel ashamed

 -When I am awakened in the night by shrill screams of a traumatized child who relives abuse night after night in her dreams

 -When I have to explain to my bio children at 3 AM that she was just dreaming. No one is in her bedroom hurting her

 -When I argue with the school to change the bus stop to my front door so I know this child won’t be intercepted by a vindictive bio dad at the bus stop

-When I have to look into the eyes of this child whom I love with every ounce of my being and give them back to the parent they don’t want to go home to”

Clearly, life is not a cake walk for those fostering children either and these are only some of the scenarios presented in Rippy’s article. Foster parents don’t do it for the money, they do it to make a difference in young people’s lives that have run out of options. They do it to be that positive influence; to help promote change and better the lives of blossoming young adults.

LGBTQ Couples Do Not Make Good Foster Parents

This misconception that same sex couples are any less capable than other couples is extremely close-minded and simply untrue.

Only two states have any legislation preventing LBGTQ couples from becoming foster parents. Those two states are Nebraska and Utah, where gay marriage is actually completely legal. Furthermore, the divorce rates of ‘non-traditional’ marriages are actually lower than monogamous marriages. Same sex marriages are as healthy as other partnerships.

In the LGBT Adoption Statistics section of their site, Lifelong Adoptions states:

“In most states, whether gay adoption is legal is made on a case-by-case basis by a judge. Yet, there are 16 states that definitely allow joint gay adoptions (when a same-sex couple jointly petition for adoption): Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.”

The laws are changing, and if progress continues on the same track, it won’t be long before there are very few or no limitations at all regarding same sex foster parenting and adoption.

Shaming stigmas aimed at the foster care system need to be stopped. Remember the main points above. These stigmas are unfair to say the least as foster children should not be looked down upon, they deserve love, kindness and fair treatment just as much as any child.

Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University who enjoys writing advocacy pieces and caring for his large pet cat. When he’s not writing words, he’s writing music or riding his bicycle (which he prefers to commute by).  

52 comments

Lindi S
Lindi Smith1 years ago

The casual way it is written that "children can be cruel" is bothersome. Cruelty is taught by example. My children were never cruel nor bullies.Casually brushing this off as just 'something children do' is bloody inexcusable. I am with Marie W. on this one... people should be screened before they even get their jiggy on, as to whether they are parenting-material to begin with. Hell we sterilize dogs and cats [and bulls] all the time don't we?[sarcasm is a sign of hidden rage btw]. Gads we humans are an ignorant bunch... [makes hairball noise].
My youngest is a pseudo-achondro dwarf and was bullied horrifically by these two little-girl ingrates [who were being raised by same] so after telling her that bullies are raised by bullies whose lives are lacking in compassion and love? My kid went to the principal and asked if she could address the school at the next assembly where,after explaining her physical condition, she called out her bullies asking them to explain how they had been taught to bully those who are different ... to whit the Captain of the football team presented my girl with the smallest team t-shirt onstage and told the assembly that anyone bullying her again would be dealing with not only him... but the whole team ... and the rest of the team gathered onstage in solidarity for anti-bullying! I had no idea this happened until later when I received a call from the principal [in tears] telling ME what a great job I am doing as a single parent. My girl is

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Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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william Miller
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

"You need a license to drive a car, pull a fish out of a lake, and marry a stripper in Vegas, but any jackass can bring a life into this world. We see the downside of this nightly on reality TV, YouTube, and in our schools.
Look how many obstacles are placed in front of folks who want to adopt a child: social worker home studies; guardians ad litem; formal court proceedings.
Meanwhile we allow any ole damn fools in the back seat of an automobile to become parents without any oversight or intervention.
Bad parenting is killing our country. It’s worse than drugs, corrupt lending, Wall Street crooks, and a flexible legal system. And it raises the question:
Why aren't all parents going through the rigorous screening that foster/adoptive parents go through? "

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Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

A 24/7 commitment with few resources for babysitting providers. Also furniture, appliances, transportation, clothing, gifts, shoes, school supplies, special diets. There is no profit here if you raise them as you would your own which they are as long as is permitted. The goal is mending broken hearts all around.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Carol S.
Carol S2 years ago

Thank goodness these children can find loving places!

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Rachel L.
Past Member 2 years ago

Tyfs. No stigmatizing. Bravo to good foster parents!

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