As members of the foster care community, it is our job to protect the children in our care. This includes their stories and their history. It is up to the children in our care to decide to whom and when they are ready to share their stories.
Many of us get asked about details of our children’s stories that we aren’t at liberty to share or that we aren’t comfortable sharing at this time. As the caregivers for these children, when we get asked questions from those unrelated to the cases’ welfare, we can be prepared with statements that are respectful but do set a privacy boundary out of concern for the child. For example, “It’s a complicated story, but it’s her story to share when she’s ready.” Here are some common statements, and strategies, that foster parents use to set up that boundary with others (Whitney).
“It’s Not My Story to Tell”
Many foster parents choose to answer nosey and invasive questions with “It’s not my story to tell,” which represents the highest degree of protection we can offer our kids. Here are just a few ways of how it can directly be stated:
- “I’m sorry, that isn’t something I can talk about”
- “I’m not at liberty to share the child’s private information while they are in our care.”
- “I can understand your curiosity, but this information is not for me to share, it is M’s personal information and it’s the least we can do to keep that safe for her” (Whitney).
Try the Re-Direct
Another way to answer nosey questions is with redirecting the question asked.
Ex “Was he taken away or did his birth mother give him away?
- “His mom made a very difficult decision that she wasn’t in the best position to raise him. Can you believe the weather we are having??”
- “There are so many variations in adoption, and we are just so happy to have this little fellow in our lives. Great brownies. Who made them?”
- This can also be as blunt as “Why do you ask?”
Most of the time, re-directing the question shuts down further questions. This method sends the message that this is a subject that is not up for public consumption. It does so in a way that allows the questioner to maintain their dignity and gives them the best odds that they will internalize the lesson (Whitney).
Another way to answer unwelcomed questions is to stay positive.
- “Children come into care for a number of reasons. Right now, our focus is on loving this child and helping this family heal.”
- “We are taking it day by day and loving it”
Common Questions Asked to Foster Parents and Responses
Here are some common statements that are thrown at foster parents frequently that may be awkward and difficult to answer along with some common responses (Penelope).
Statement 1: “I could never do that”
- “We are willing to risk a broken heart to give these children what they need. It’s not about our feelings.”
- “It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done but it’s also been the most rewarding. They are worth it.”
- “God gives us what we need. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow, but I know today that I am loving a child and we are a family however long that may be.”
Statement 2: “Your child is so lucky to have you”
- “We are actually the lucky ones”
- “We are so blessed to have each other”
Statement 3: “If that was my kid, they wouldn’t get away with that”
- “All poor behaviors have reasons. We are working with them to figure out why they behave this way to hopefully resolve it. They have been through a lot, and from the outside I can see why that would be hard for you to see and understand.”
- “We cannot judge a person until we walk in their shoes” (Penelope).
“Foster Parent? How to Handle Nosy Questions – Creating a Family”, Creating a Family, December 2, 2018, https://creatingafamily.org/uncategorized/foster-parent-how-to-handle-nosy-questions/.
Penelope. “Foster Parents’ Answers to Nosy Questions – Foster2Forever”, Foster2Forever, https://foster2forever.com/2015/09/foster-parents-questions.html.
Whitney, Tracy “How Should Foster Parents Handle Nosey Questions – Creating a Family”, Creating A Family, June 11th, 2018, https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/foster-parent-handling-nosey-question/.