There is hardly a more cringe-worthy statement than, “Foster kids are unwanted.” Although the number of children in the foster care system who are awaiting adoption is alarming, one should never assume that these kids are unwanted. This is a stigma that needs to be closely examined.

To understand this, it is important to be aware of what happens when a child enters the foster care system. When a child is entered into protective custody, the federal law allows for the biological parents to work toward reunification. They are given 15 out of 22 months. Often, the family has a court-ordered treatment plan with specific goals that, if completed, will allow for reunification once the home is deemed safe.

Sadly, due to addiction, mental illness, or other dire circumstances, some biological parents are not able to complete their plan; therefore, termination of parental rights is ordered. It is not that the biological parents do not want their children. Not at all. Some are plagued with severe issues that interfere with the ability to have a safe home for their children. This is a heartbreaking reality of too many who find themselves involved with a less than perfect system.

When it comes to wanting foster kids, let’s look at foster parents. Sure, there are too many placement disruptions within the system. However, many of these disruptions have very little to do with the foster families not wanting a child. Instead, the family finds themselves unable to manage behavioral or medical issues that the child requires. There are other circumstances that affect placement as well.

There are many foster parents who desperately want the kids placed in their home and to suggest anything different is just wrong. Foster parents are asked to attach and love a child “as if they gave birth to them” and then support the child leaving their home to go back with the biological parents or a relative/kinship family. While foster parents understand it and are supportive, it still breaks their hearts. The child they have loved and wanted is moving on. It is never good to assume that foster parents do not want these kids. If anything, many of them are the only ones putting themselves on the front lines of child abuse and neglect.

When thinking about whether foster kids are wanted, one needs to consider our societal views on foster children and youth. Is it really that they are unwanted or is it that we (as a society) want children without so-called “baggage?” Is the ideology that foster kids are unwanted a true reflection of them or is it a reflection of us?

What do we expect as a community of potential foster and adoptive families? What does society as a whole want? These are questions that need to be deeply considered before we just assume that children in the system are unwanted.

With nearly 428,000 children in the US foster care system and thousands in need of adoption, before we jump to conclusions that these kids are unwanted or not fit for families, we should first take a hard look at ourselves. It only takes one family to make a difference in the life of a child.