When your friends and family hear you’ve added a foster child to your family, there is a wide range of typical reactions. There are those that are less than supportive (Are you crazy? I read about a foster kid that tried to stab his foster parent. Don’t you guys have enough going on? Are you sure your OWN kids are going to be okay?) and there’s a place for those tough conversations. We all need to have people in our community who can ask the hard questions and we need to be humble enough to listen. (For the love, DO NOT have these conversations IN FRONT OF the foster kids.)
But then there are the responses that intend to be supportive that can actually feel painful. At the top of that list is the classic, “He’s so lucky to have you.” We understand what you want to communicate is it’s good this child has ended up in a loving home, but the truth is nobody ends up in need of a family because they are “lucky.” We appreciate the support you’re expressing, but we’d love for you to find a way to communicate it that acknowledges both the good and hard of this situation.
We know to describe this child’s life as “lucky” is just inaccurate. They may have medical issues or mental health issues that make the word “lucky” the farthest thing from our mind. They may have experienced unspeakable abuse and neglect we can’t talk to you about (for confidentiality reasons). The child may have behaviors we’re spending tons of time and money trying to figure out. This is not a lucky child. This is a child who has survived and endured and we’re going to now be part of his team. This is an act of choice and commitment, not some issue of luck.
And in those precious snuggly moments with a child who needs us, WE feel like the lucky ones. We feel so entirely lucky to be able to be entrusted with the care of this child, especially when we know there’s a mama out there who is grieving their loss. Even on our hard days, we’re thankful for the gift of being able to parent this precious kid. We notice you don’t say our bio kids are “lucky” to have us and it’s not a common phrase we use when meeting someone’s new biological baby for the first time. That seems to imply there’s something especially nice about us that we’d decide to love this kid. Like, maybe they aren’t worth loving or else why would they be lucky that we love them?
So instead of telling us how lucky this child is, here are ways you can express support that are more congruent with this child’s actual life experience and with our feelings about them:
-I’m so glad he’s with your family. We know there are foster homes that are less than ideal. It’s encouraging if you want to let us know you’re glad he’s ended up in a good one. Words of support for our family during this transition time are appreciated.
-He is going to be so loved in your home. Whatever difficulties may come, we are going to love this little one. When you can affirm that commitment and express trust in our desire to meet that need for love, you are being a helpful part of our team.
-We’re so glad you said yes! Let us know you think this is a good thing! We had a choice and we decided to share our home with this child. We love your words of support about our decision to take this risk and step out in faith.
-You are going to be a great support to his family. This child didn’t get dropped off by storks. There are real parents grieving today because this child can’t safely be in their home. It’s okay with us for you to acknowledge that reality and say something supportive about our ability to be part of the team of people loving his family. We’d SO MUCH rather hear those things from you than have you say what kind of terrible people they must be to not be able to care for their child.
-What a handsome/bright/sweet/precious/lovable little guy! We love this child! We’re proud of him. We’d love for you to love him, too. Tell us something great about him. In the tough times, listen to our struggles and then remind us of those good qualities. Let us know you see this child as worth loving and worth the investment and risk.
-We’re thankful you’re here to help him through this tough time. This is a hard time for this child and it’s okay for you to acknowledge that. It’s helpful for us when you express grace for how hard this might be for all of us and confidence that we can do it well.
-We’re proud of you guys! We need our community to express support for us, no matter what the outcome of this situation. We may get our hearts ripped out and we need to know you believe this is the right thing to do even if it hurts. Telling us you’re proud of us lets us know you are on our team.
-How can I help? (or even better: “I’m bringing a meal tomorrow.”) It’s great for you to say nice things, but it’s even more meaningful if you can do something tangible to help. You can be part of the support team for this child by dropping off diapers, clothes, toys, a meal or by arranging to come mow the lawn, mop the floors, or watch our kids so we can go to court. If you don’t live close, you can still arrange for a grocery delivery, send a book for the child, provide a gift card for a meal or higher a cleaning crew to stop by.
Nothing in this situation feels like good luck. We’ve stepped out in faith, in commitment, in hope. This child has been put into a terrible situation through no fault of their own. It’s wonderful when kids who have been through trauma are able to land in homes that will love them well and support their families, but none of that is a product of “luck.” We are blessed to get to love them for however long we can. The words you use to affirm that choice on our part can let us know you understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and you want to be part of our team.