adopted children

10 Misconceptions About Foster Kids

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There are two types of foster kids, if movies and T.V. shows are to be believed. First, there’s the angry youth who just needs a little bit of tough love in order to kick his Krokodil/vandalism/schoolyard fight habits, which he will inevitably get in the form of two naive but well-meaning foster parents. They’ll rescue him, he’ll be grateful, adoption happens, everyone is happy.

The second is the adorable, innocent foster child who longs for kisses but get kicks instead, who wants a cotton blanket, but is instead forced to wrap herself in scratchy ass wool. Fortunately she’ll meet two naive but well-meaning foster parents (or one insanely rich dude) who will rescue her, she’ll be grateful, adoption happens, and everyone is happy.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure I have to tell you that I was never in state foster care. Instead, I was voluntarily enrolled at age six in a private school for “perpetually disadvantaged children.” I was placed in a home of 12 other kids and two houseparents and though they assumed most custodial duties, I was neither up for adoption nor forcibly removed from my mother’s care. I still saw her during some summers, when I lived at her home.

The main difference between my experience and state care was that the school I enrolled in was a private philanthropic endeavor. Some of my peers and housemates came from state care or were state wards, and others came from loving but unstable homes. A lot of us fell somewhere in between.

In many ways, it was similar to an orphanage or foster care; group homes, surrogate parents, spontaneous bouts of cheerful singing…in either case, misconceptions abound both about state care and private care systems like mine. I made a handy little list, put together from experience where I had it, and by asking my state-raised peers when I didn’t.

1. All foster kids are orphans

Probably the most common misconception I run into is the orphan one. If I’m trying to explain that I did not live at home growing up, I usually get “why, are your parents dead?”. What a great conversation opener! Pro tip: if someone says yes, you’ve just made it awkward.

2. Non-orphans are surrenders, their parents didn’t want them.

Someone did a newspaper article on our school once and called it “The School For The Unwanted”. Do I have to really debunk this? Or could people just not be assholes once in awhile?

3. Foster kids are mostly crack babies.

Ah, the crack baby. Despite the fact that the whole crack baby thing turned out to be overblown panic, I still hear this one a lot. Sometimes interchangeable with the prom night dumpster baby, the elusive crack baby grows up and divides his time between gaming the welfare system, smoking lots of rock, and writing all of Ke$ha’s songs.

3. Most foster kids are black.

Sometimes, if someone is trying to be delicate, they’ll swap out “black” for “inner city”. Another variation of this is “[insert race here] people never get their kids taken away/surrender their kids.” Weirdly, people are very attached to this idea and will ignore you if you try to set them straight, probably because they have a Doctorate in Orphanology or something.

4. Foster care is punishment for delinquents.

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Boys get this a whole lot, believe it or not. The idea is that foster children are constantly teetering on the brink of a lifetime of felonious behavior, or that kids in foster care are there because “they did something”. To address this, you need to understand that 8% of kids in foster care are juvenile offenders. If you’re adept at mental math, then you can easily understand that 92% of foster kids are not juvenile offenders, and if you ask a foster kid what they did wrong to end up  in care, you are 100% douche.

5. Kids get bounced from home to home which is why they suck so bad at school and life.

If kids are bouncing around, it’s usually between foster care and their custodial parents during reunification attempts, not necessarily a string of group homes. The idea is to create permanence, which is why most kids are placed with foster parents and remain there for a good long while, whether they are eligible for adoption or not. The average number of placements is three. I lived in only two homes over 11 years, which is actually pretty normal. Also, I only had to repeat second grade five times, thankyouverymuch.

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