5 Things to Never Say to a Foster Youth
Five things to never say to a foster youth, it seems simple. But as we approach the holiday season, we come together with people from many backgrounds. Hopefully, some of those people include current and former foster youth. Many of our current staff and interns have been in the foster system and shared with us some of the best-intentioned/worst things said to them over the holidays.
So while you navigate these get-togethers here are 5 things to never say to foster youth.
1. Do You Miss Your Real Parents?
This is a common question, obviously, it isn’t meant to be harmful. But every child in care has reached that point for various reasons. Many do have great relationships with their bio-parents. Others do not.
The main point is to just not bring it up. While curious, it isn’t anyone’s business if the youth does or doesn’t miss their “real” parents.
2. We Understand What You are Going Through…
Yes, being empathetic is a great quality. However, unless you have been in the foster care system. You don’t really know what these youths have experienced. Each of their stories is individual and unique. It is understandable that you want to let them know that they are not alone in their journey but that isn’t the same as saying you understand from experience.
We are not saying to stop being empathetic. The world needs more empathetic people. Always lend an understanding ear but please refrain from going down this path.
3. You are so Lucky
Oof! When we hear this it seems innocent and yet, similar to scratches on a chalkboard. Clearly, the message isn’t meant to be demeaning but it comes off that way. While the youth is in a safer situation, they may not feel lucky. Whether they do or don’t doesn’t really matter and as harsh as this may sound. It is not anyone’s place to dictate what their feelings are.
These kids have been through a lot. Period. Lucky is a subjective opinion and it should be left in other spaces and conversations.
4. I Wish I Didn’t Have to Deal with My Parents
Humor is one of the many ways people deflect. Just because it is easy to use humor to fill silent or awkward situations doesn’t mean that it is the best practice. Rather than making a joke about your family’s “basic” drama try and avoid talking about your family’s small scale problems.
5. You Don’t Look Like a Foster Kid
Let’s take a minute to reflect on this. How does a “foster kid” look? This statement is highly offensive and diminishes the autonomy of each child in care. Youth in foster care are diverse, they don’t all look the same, they don’t all sound the same, and they sure don’t share the same experiences.
Rather than commenting on their appearance (or anyone else’s for that matter), ask them about their studies. Or what excites them about learning.
Ultimately, we believe that people who have made these statements mean well. Good intentions can often miss the mark and when it comes to spending time with youth in foster care. The best bet is to just not bring up or comment on it. Let them enjoy the moment without being reminded that they are in foster care. If they want to share, let them, but don’t pry. You don’t need to know and there is no reason to make things uncomfortable for anyone.
For more resources to help youth in foster care, check out our Family Fellowship scholarship.