Even well-meaning adults sometimes get it wrong when dealing with foster children and youth. This is so especially when a social worker, caregiver, or other adult has never been in foster care him/herself. Foster children would want all adults to know:
1. We are people, not commodities. Just because we’re part of your job, just because we come to your home with lists of facts about ourselves doesn’t mean we are “things” to be handled. We are real people with real feelings, real hopes and dreams, real problems. Please treat us with respect by talking to us, rather than about us, when we are present. Please treat us as you would like to be treated.
2. We understand more than you think we do. If you have a concern about our behavior, talk to us about it. If we have to move, tell us why. If you want to know something about our past, ask us—don’t assume. We may or may not want to talk about it, but please give us the opportunity to represent ourselves to you.
3. We have a past that has helped to shape us. We may be churchgoers or not. We may be used to routines that soothe us. We may have values that we’d like to keep. Please let us choose where and when to attend church. Please let us pray before mealtime or bedtime if we’d like. Please don’t force your beliefs on us, but let us share our beliefs with you.
4. We might have family members we hope to stay in touch with. Please encourage this and make it possible for us to see our siblings often. We love them and miss them. Sometimes talking with our grandparents on the phone will give us the boost and comfort we need. Please be aware of which familial associations help us, and keep us involved with them.
5. Our privacy is important to us. Everyone is entitled to share what they desire about themselves, and to keep parts of their lives private. Whether you’ve read it in our files or heard it from our social workers, please realize information about us is only ours to share—not yours.
When in doubt, treat the child as you would like to be treated. Children in foster care may have come from bad situations, but they are not bad people. At the very least, communicate with the foster children you are involved with. It will make all the difference!