This past summer we moved into a new neighborhood which meant our children would begin a new school. At the start of the school year our children were anxious about what the new school would be like. Would they make friends? Would their teachers like them? Would they be able to find their classes? All very common concerns when a little one is being asked to start something new. On the flip side the school and teachers had no idea who we were and how the make-up of our family came to be.
Recently a teacher of one of our daughters learned she was in foster care and upon hearing that, she said, “I had no idea she was in foster care”. Why? Because, “she did not look like a foster child”. Selfishly, we were glad to hear that. In fact, it was a momentary dang right moment. You know, “dang right she doesn’t look like she is in foster care, she is our child and looks like our child.”
The dang right moment was fleeting, because as advocates and parents with a heart for foster care we began to ask ourselves, what does that mean?
What exactly does a foster kid look like?
Unfortunately, society has their opinion. Foster children are supposed to look sad, they are supposed to have behavioral problems, they are supposed to look disheveled and have clothes on that are too small or too large, or maybe a little too outdated. They are supposed to be distracted and disobedient. In fact, they might even look like a little criminal in a child’s body, because after all that is who they are, right??
No, that is not who they are. Our kids are beautiful, smart, caring, handsome, curious, resilient, funny, strong-willed, courteous, and thoughtful. Our children are survivors. They have seen many things, but are hopeful for a better future. They are children who just need love and acceptance. Not pity, judgment, or sympathy.
We hate that there are foster parents out there who have perpetuated this image by not making sure their foster children have all they need clothing and hygiene wise. We hate that the stereotype of foster children being behavioral problems is perpetuated by a lack of understanding within the educational system regarding how trauma affects the brain in a child. Ultimately, we hate that society has painted an image of what a “foster child looks like.”
People often applaud us for being willing to “do that”. By “do that” they mean fostering. But, we are not the heroes. The real heroes are the children in foster care who walk out into the world every day looking to hold their head high and find love and acceptance all the while hoping someone doesn’t just write them off as a foster kid, especially because they look like it.
Yep, you’re dang right our kid doesn’t look like a foster kid. That’s because she isn’t. She is a hero, a little girl who has taken the worlds best shot and is still standing on her own two feet. In fact, that looks more like courage and resiliency if you ask us.