10 Uncomfortable Questions Foster Parents Get Asked: And How to Answer Them

Foster families get lots of questions. Most are well-intentioned from friends and families wanting to understand foster care and how they can help. Some from strangers (or even from friends) can be invasive, uncomfortable, or just uninformed. Sometimes it is not the question as much as the time and place. In the freezer section at Walmart. In front of your children innocently waiting to buy an ice cream cone. In the middle of a toddler tantrum at the park. It feels like strangers can always find you at the worst time and ask the exact question that pushes you to your tipping point.

two boys play in puddles at splash pad

When your family doesn’t match, you get used to awkward questions and funny looks in public. They aren’t always negative; in fact, the interactions that I have in public are largely positive. For some reason the Chick-Fil-A play area is where I have some of the deepest conversations about foster care. There was one Saturday where three Chik-Fil-A guests commented on how beautiful our family was, what great parents we were, and how sweet our kids were in the span of an hour. Maybe we just spend way too much time in Chick-Fil-A, but you can’t beat it when all three picky eaters will eat their food AND play independently for more than an hour. [Pro-tip for families, just buy the 30 count nuggets and a large fry to share rather than individual kids’ meals and it will save you money.]

Boys Night Out with Dad at Chick-Fil-A, Greenwood

Here is how foster parents can answer awkward questions in public- whether you want to make light or take a chance to inform others about foster care. These responses are gathered from REAL foster parents:

Where did you get them from?

  • “We found them in the park and thought they were cute, so we kept them” – Tam
  • “We ordered him off Amazon” – Elizabeth

Where is their real mom? Is she on drugs?

  • “I am their real mom because at this time, while they’re in my care, I am their mom.” – Melissa
  • “Do you mean their biological mother? – Melissa
  • “That’s not my story to tell” – Katie

What’s this one’s story?

  • “Why do you ask? Would you like to learn more about foster care?” – Sunny
  • “I can’t answer that” – Sara
  • “I’m sorry. I can’t answer questions about this child’s case. However I would be willing to help you get the right resources to become a foster parent so you would be privy to other kids’ cases. Let me know when you’re available.” – Reg

Do you get to keep this one?

  • With kindness, “No” – Andrea
  • Again, “I can’t answer questions about this child’s case.” 
  • “They’ll be with us as long as they need us.” – Kaley

But, don’t you want your own kids?

  • “I’m very happy with these ones. Thank you” – Kaley
  • “They are our own kids.” 

They really don’t look like either of you?

  • “Yes, genetics are a funny thing” – Kel
  • “I know. We don’t get it either” – Chuck
  • “But they do look like the mailman”
  • “You don’t think so?”

Are they adopted? Do you want to adopt them?

  • In response to ‘are they adopted?’ —“No. Are you?” – Kaley
  • Again, “I can’t answer questions about this child’s case.” 
  • “The goal is always reunification, but we love them very much.”
  • “We’ve always been open to the prospect of adoption.”

Are they real siblings?

  • “They love each other very much.”
  • “We are a real family and so they are real siblings.” – Kaley

You have a lot of kids. Are they really all yours?

  • “They’re all mine, but I’m not sure who the daddies are” – Rebecca
  • “We have an extra. Do you want one?” – Chuck
  • On a bumper sticker, “Honk if a child falls out.” – Chuck
  • “At least for now.”

Have you heard about the foster care (insert horror story from the news)?

  • “No, but thanks for sharing.”
  • “Yes, but we try to avoid reading horror stories that are largely sensationalized.” 
  • “Hmm… not all experiences with foster care are like that.”

Navigating the chaotic world of foster care can be challenging. Don’t go it alone! Join our SHAREfostering community for feedback and encouragement from other foster parents.

Want to share your foster care knowledge and experience with your network so they don’t ask these 10 questions (or other iterations) to people they don’t know… even if it is totally well-intentioned? Host a SHAREfostering event online or in person. We’ll walk you through all the steps to be successful. 

Maybe just wear a SHAREfostering T-shirt out in public. You may get questions about foster care, but they’re usually about learning more and getting connected. Anything to take the attention off your “mis-matched” family.

Kaley has been a foster parent since 2017. Kaley, Bob, and their dog Rosie currently reside in Greenwood, SC. As Director of SC Operations for Care2Foster, Kaley focuses on recruiting and supporting families as they take their next steps learning more about foster care. She is passionate about supporting foster families with authenticity, vulnerability, and hope. She is also President of Greenwood Foster Parent Association.

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