There’s a myth, an assumption or perhaps a generalisation that kids in foster care don’t have parents. In many cases, they do. In some cases, you’ll even have to deal with them throughout the entire placement of your child.
The easiest thing to do is to judge those parents. It’s easy, but it’s unfair.
Just as you will never know everything about the child who is placed with you, similarly you will never know everything about their parents, either. Yes you’ll read info in paperwork, and yes you’ll form an impression should you ever get to see or speak to them directly, but you’ll never know what the complete story is.
We all judge people, and I am particularly bad for this if someone makes a poor first impression on me – it stays with me, and people have to work damn hard for me to change my opinion. At least I’m honest about it. This has been something I’ve had to work on though, because previously, my husband and I have needed to work really quite closely with the parents of a child in our care.
The parents were not in jail, not on benefits, and not on drugs. They lived in a nice house, had good jobs, and clearly loved their son. What they also had was a tether, and at the time we met them, they were at the end of it. Kids are stressful, hard work and demanding, and by the time they reach adolescence, some of them can even be un-manageable. Show me a household with teenagers where this isn’t the case at one time or another!
All parents at some point make bad decisions, do misguided things, and make poor judgements. They do this because they are human, but what I have to respect is when these same people hold up their hands and admit they need support. Their harshest critics are probably themselves; they don’t need me to add to that criticism. In fact, they need me to do the exact opposite.
I could never forgive a parent if they had abused or neglected their child in any way, and I don’t feel I’m a bad person for saying this. However, the whole scenario we found ourselves in reminded me that kids can be placed or taken into foster care for a million and one different reasons. Whatever that reason, it’s not the Foster Carer’s focus. Whatever those parents have or haven’t done, our judgement doesn’t change anything. So, what I’ve been reminded of is that rather than spending time and energy questioning why these people ever had kids, and judging their failings and mistakes as real-life parents along the way, concentrate on doing the best job you can as the next best thing these children may now have to a stable and fully-functioning family. Play your part, promote positive relationships, and let everybody else sort themselves out.