5 Things You Should Not Say to A Youth in Foster Care
Updated: Apr 20
You most likely had several get-togethers with family and friends during the holiday season and perhaps some current and former young people in foster care were included. With so many outdated perceptions and myths concerning foster care, there’s every chance you could have upset a group of vulnerable young people by inadvertently saying the wrong thing.
Here is a guide on what not to say, compiled from what many youth, who were once in foster care, have shared with us. These are possibly the best intentioned and yet worst things said to them.
1. You Don’t Look Like a Foster Child
So, tell me, what does a foster child look like? This is considered a very insulting remark. By putting a label on a child, you take away their individuality. The young people in foster care don’t look like each other, they also don’t sound like each other and they certainly haven’t had the same experiences. Each one of them is a unique individual. Rather than calling a child a “foster child,” it would be better to say “a child in foster care.”
2. Do You Miss Your Real Parents?
This common question is clearly not meant to be upsetting, but every child in foster care has a different reason why they have reached this point. Many of the children have very good relationships with their biological parents but there are some who don’t.
It is better not to bring the question up because it is no one else’s business whether the child misses or doesn’t miss their parents.
3. You Are So Lucky
This statement is understandably not meant to be condescending, but it comes off that way. Even though they are in a safer situation, these youngsters have been through so much that they may not feel lucky. No one can know what they are feeling and whether they feel lucky or not, it would be better to leave lucky for another conversation.
4. I Understand What You Are Going Through
Having empathy is a great quality, but you don’t know what these young people have experienced, unless you have been in foster care yourself. Every one of them has their own exclusive story and it is understandable to want them to know they have someone who cares, but claiming to understand from experience is just not the same.
More empathetic people are needed in this world so keep on lending an understanding ear.
5. I Wish I Didn’t Have to Deal with My Parents
Many people use humor to fill silent or awkward situations, but humor is not always a good thing. It would be better to not talk about your family’s problems instead of making a joke of them.
Although we believe these statements are meant well, unfortunately when it comes to spending time with youngsters in foster care, they often turn out wrong. Perhaps you shouldn’t discuss it at all and instead let them have an enjoyable time with no reminders that they are in foster care.