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Responding to Questions About Your Children in Foster Care

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

foster family

Being a foster parent will invoke questions and curiosity from those around you. Having an idea of what people may ask and how you want to respond will keep you (and your children) from being caught off guard.

Strangers will see you at the store and wonder:

Are all of those kids hers?

What's their story?

Is she the mom or the nanny?

She looks too young to have a son that old.

Real-Life Example: I got coffee with a friend who was fostering an infant. A stranger in line at the coffee shop went on and on about how my thin, in-shape friend certainly did NOT look like she just birthed a baby. The stranger was trying to pay her a compliment - but my friend wasn't going to announce that the baby was in foster care and that she didn't actually give birth recently after all. A simple, "You're so kind. Thank you!" sufficed. No need to explain or clarify.

Your family and friends (who know you foster) will want to know:

Why were those children removed from their family?

What is their biological family like?

Why does the child do this / say that / eat this way / hate that thing?

Is he a "drug baby"? (this is not an appropriate term, nor an appropriate question in ANY context)

Most people are not familiar enough with foster care and how it works to know:

(1) what questions to ask

(2) what questions NOT to ask

(3) whether its appropriate to ask any questions at all

First, let me say: please give people grace. People will ask you ridiculous questions. They will say things about foster care that rub you the wrong way. They will stare at your family a little bit longer. They will make judgments based on their own perceptions, not on your reality. All you can do is give grace and respond the best you can in the moment.

You'll probably respond differently depending on whether or not your child is with you when the curious person asks.

When your child in care is NOT with you and someone asks about their story, here are some sample responses:

"That's actually something that I want ___(child)___ to be able to share when she's ready."

"I'm not sure that I have permission to talk about that."

"I'm trying to be respectful of his privacy so that's not something I can speak to right now."

"There are a lot of aspects of her story that are confidential for a variety of reasons, but maybe one day that will change!"

When your child in care IS with you, or can hear you:

"Yes, they're all mine! We have a lot of fun together!"

"We aren't related by blood but we're certainly family!"

"That's something we keep between us. Hope you have a nice day."

You aren't under any obligation to address a stranger's question at all; you mainly want to make sure that your child feels loved, valued, protected and confident in their role in your family. Whatever your response, let that be the end goal!

If your child is old enough, give them a say in how they refer to you in public.

Even if they call you "mom" or "Miss Emily" at home, they may not feel comfortable addressing you as such with their friends, coaches or teachers. It's okay if they want to refer to you as an aunt, a family friend, a mentor, or even their neighbor. Let them decide! Everyone in their life doesn't have to know they're in foster care.

Emily | Respite Foster Mom


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