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Jun 23, 2017

by Sheina Martinez, Foster Care Recruiter/Licensing Specialist, Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley

My husband and I get our share of uninvited comments about our family and our choice to be foster parents. As Puerto Ricans with dark hair and dark skin, we stand out at the supermarket with the blond-haired, blue-eyed young children routinely in our care who call us “Mom and Dad.” People stop and look. I understand that.

Just because I work in foster care doesn’t make it easier when strangers make comments to or about my family. Because it happens, and will likely continue, I’ve found that it helps to have a ready response. Here are five ways I often respond to diffuse an awkward or insensitive comment.  

Why does he call you “Mom”?

We have a rainbow family. Isn’t it beautiful?

I find most people who are asking just to make a point don’t have much more to say when you ask them a question back.

Is his dad white?  

Yes.

You don’t need to go any further about foster care or explain any part of the child’s history with a stranger who asks. The child’s story is really none of their business.  

 

You’re crazy. How can you add more to your plate?

Yes, I have a lot of my plate. But I have a lot of strength too. By carrying so much at once, I’ve learned how to carry it well. I organize, prioritize, and multitask, and God has made a way with every placement.

Besides working full time, going to school for my master’s degree, and being involved in church ministry, I have a 13-year old daughter, a 9-year-old son, and a dog. Everyone’s alive and being fed every day. We know our limits—we know how many soccer practices we can do in one week—and we’ve asked not to be called for babies or infants at this stage in our lives. We take breaks between placements to re-evaluate fostering and allow ourselves to miss it so we don’t burn out. Doing so gives the whole family the energy to do foster care longer.

 

I’d be scared of the parents.

Parents aren’t the enemy.

We’ve had eight children in our home through foster care, and the two we have now will be going home soon. We’ve worked to build positive relationships with the parents as well as the kids. A child who stayed with us three years ago still comes to visit, and we go to his birthday parties. Another sibling group who stayed with us for a year still call us “aunt and uncle.” Their parents say, “You loved our kids, and you loved us. You didn’t judge us or talk badly about us. We’re family.” Whether a child stays with you for three weeks, ten months, or two years, it’s beautiful to see a family reunited.

We still set boundaries—I am not Facebook friends with parents, and none of them have been to my home.

 

I couldn’t do it. I’d get too attached.

I love him 100 percent, but his parents love him 1 million percent. If I was this amazing kid’s mom, I’d want someone to encourage me and be happy that I’m meeting my goals so he can come back home.

Foster care is temporary, and the goal is to safely reunite children with their parents. I put myself on the opposite side. As a parent, of course you believe your child will do better at home with you than anywhere else. And the kids want to go home too. We have a nice home; we have a pool and everything a child would want. When we have a child in our home through foster care, they still say, “This is fun. I had a great day. When am I going home?”

You do get attached to these children, and a stable adult in their lives who can make them feel safe is what they need right now. But that child wants to be home with his mom. I say, “I want that for you too.” Foster care isn’t about us. Yes, I cry. I bawl every single time a child leaves our home. But I’m happiest when I know a child can have a future with their family.


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