October 5, 2011

Please ask!

  I was reading this post this morning (love her blog) and it helped me a little bit to define something I’ve been trying to feel out lately.


  There is sometimes this awkwardness in fostering.  (Ok, there is a lot of awkwardness in fostering – but I trying to specify one kind of fostering awkwardness.)  Like yesterday when I took Bella and Sylvia to the dentist. 

  I sign them both in, and wait.  I fully expect, as I wait for her to call my name, that there will be quite the scene in trying to clarify this whole situation.  The receptionist starts in:


So, she’s on your insurance, but she is on Medicaid?


And you only have a photo copy of her Medicaid card, why?


You stated here that you think she has a history of dental work but you’re not sure?  (Um, yes.  I’m going to go ahead and say I can assume that one, considering all of her front top teeth are gone and all her bottom ones are capped.  Does that seem like such a stretch to you?)


In order to run her Medicaid, I need her full legal name.  You don’t know it???


And then they proceed to call Sylvia and Bella into different rooms – I guess because they have different last names?  And I have to clarify, from across the room that they are both with me. 


We get into the exam room and the nurse starts asking lots of questions.  How long has Bella been with you?  Will it be hard to say goodbye?  Is fostering really hard? (umm…she’s sitting right there?)


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying any of this because it is offensive to me.  It isn’t.  I’ll just go ahead and say that in general I think most of us foster and adoptive parents are too easily offended when it comes to our children. 

I think I’m just not sure what to do with this.

Everyone doesn’t need to know that Bella is my daughter through foster care.  I don’t think I should be obligated to tell anyone that.  What difference does it make?  But I also realize that in general, our family doesn’t fit into the box that most people have in their brain labeled ‘family,’ and that there are bound to be questions.


I just don’t want her, in anyone’s mind, to be defined by the fact that she is in foster care.  “Foster Kid” does not define anyone.  It is a label.  A label that sucks.


  So, where does that leave us?  You naturally have questions about the makeup of our family – that’s cool, not a problem.  In fact, I’m really happy to answer them.  Education about all this is the only way that it will improve and any labels can be taken care of.  Our families are different, which only makes them interesting – noticing that they are different is not wrong, unless it creates labels.

  I won’t even be offended as you bumble about trying to come up with how to ask which ones are our ‘real kids’ – because lets all be honest, it’s hard to ask questions about foster and adoptive families.  It’s even harder when foster and adoptive families get offended by any way you ask. 

  But Bella is at risk of feeling defined by the fact that she’s in foster care because of all the questions – we don’t fit in the box.


  I guess what I am saying is:

We foster and adoptive parents should chill out and not get offended at every question that suggests that our families are built differently than most (gasp!) – and we need to have grace when other’s have not mastered the art of adoption talk.




If you want to ask questions, just do it discreetly until you know how open and ok it is to discuss these issues, well, out in the open.


Does this make sense?  Thoughts?


  1. I too have this struggle again and again. It is getting more challenging to deal with as my kids get bigger and are frankly tired of the world commenting... They are have no problem saying that they are adopted but when people start to get nosey it becomes an issue.

  2. I used to hate dr's appointments (before finalization of adoption) because it was the only time I had to identify myself as her "foster mother" instead of her mother. And then there was the eye dr. who didn't seem to take me seriously, presumably because he saw me as just one in a line of caretakers. Needless to say, we have a new eye dr. now (who discovered that the glasses prescribed by the previous one were completely wrong!).

  3. I love this! You know, I have gotten every question under the sun and even still, I have not mastered the art of adoption talk. All too often I respond inappropriately or in a way that discloses too much information. It's a fine line to walk in respecting the children as well as sharing my heart in a ministry I am so passionate about!

    I LOVE when people ask me about foster care and adoption...just not when it is a condescending way. If it is simply interest and they want to get to know more, I am always, always glad to talk. The minute I feel like I am defending myself or my family's decision though (Ultimately the Lord's decision), is when I know that the conversation needs to drift off.

    You're so right, "education about this is the only way that it will improve and any labels can be taken care of." Thanks for the reminder to respond graciously to people who are unfamiliar with foster care. I am finding, especially now that I am away from all my friends back home and on a college campus, that hardly anyone knows anything about foster care. It is exhausting and almost discouraging.

    Okay, sorry this is a novel. : ) Hope you're having a great week with those 3 sweet little girls of yours!

  4. Yes, definitely agree. I don't get offended by the (CONSTANT) questions, although sometimes I get tired and don't want to have a lengthy discussion about it. I don't mind talking about it in front of foster kids, because I can redirect it and reframe it in a positive way that's helpful for the kids - yet another 'teaching moment' etc etc.

    But I would love to tell people to please, don't ask me about foster care when I am a) obviously in a rush, b) in the middle of dealing with a tantrum, or c) in the middle of a just-for-me time (ie a pedicure recently :D).

    Ah, who am I kidding. I love fostering so much I could talk about it in my sleep - ask away world!!


Thanks for commenting!!


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