Changing How We Think About Adopted/Foster Kids

Often our society treats foster kids — and by extension adopted kids — as somehow less. Less important than adults. Less valuable than their peers. Less lovable because of their background, their biological family, or their behavior. Almost less than human. Different. Other. Less.

We would never say any of that out loud, of course. But some of the most insidious lies we believe are the ones we never put into words. Among them are some very harmful and mistaken beliefs we may subconsciously hold about kids from hard places.

Unfortunately, even subconscious beliefs will affect how we think about and treat others. In order to consistently live out pro-life values, we need to recognize the lies we believe about foster and adopted kids and replace them with the truth.

In order to consistently live out pro-life values, we need to recognize the lies we believe about foster and adopted kids and replace them with the truth.

Kids Are Valuable. Period.

As beings created in the image of God, all kids — including foster and adopted kids — have inherent and inalienable worth. I think all Christians would say they believe that. The problem is, we sometimes don’t act like it.

Instead, we act as if somehow a child’s worth can rise or fall based on what has been done to or for them. A child that we may have overlooked last week might suddenly seem more precious to us once we know they are a foster or adopted kid. Or we might act as though these kids are somehow second-class citizens because of their past or present situation.

It’s important to remember that adopted kids aren’t valuable *because* of what their adoptive families have done for them or even *despite* what they’ve been through. They’re just valuable. Period. No qualifiers.

Foster Kids Aren’t Broken.

I don’t think many people would look at a three-year-old foster child and say, “That kid is broken.” But that’s exactly what our actions often imply. Foster kids often behave differently than we would expect a “normal” child to behave. They act out, and it isn’t pleasant for their foster parents or for anyone else around them —  from teachers dealing with classroom disruptions to random strangers witnessing a grocery store meltdown.

It’s easy to look at these kids and see bad behavior in need of correction rather than a hurting child in need of love. But it’s important to remember that foster kids aren’t broken. They don’t need to be fixed. Like any child, they need to be loved. They need to be guided, disciplined, protected, and provided for. They need us to look past their behavior, see their hurt, and meet their needs.

Foster and Adopted Kids Are Not Their Past.

If you have watched any videos or read any articles about the long-term effects of childhood trauma, you understand that a child’s past — especially their earliest experiences — will leave a lasting impact. (If you haven’t, this TED talk is a good place to start.) We are all affected by what we’ve been through.

However, we must remember that while foster and adopted kids will certainly be affected by their past, they are not defined by it. Childhood trauma, foster care, and adoption will forever be part of their story — but it’s only one part. It’s not the beginning, the end, or even the climax. Just another chapter in a story still being written.

None of us would like to be forever known first and foremost for something that happened to us in the past. Neither do kids from hard places. We should interact with them in a trauma-informed way, but we should not equate them with their trauma, its effects, or their response to it. Beneath all the hurt is a real person with real feelings and a real future, and we need to treat them accordingly.

Adopted Kids Belong. So Do Foster Kids.

It would be almost unthinkable to look at a newly adopted child and say, “You don’t belong here.” But isn’t that the impression we give when we constantly tack on the word “adopted?” When we differentiate between adopted and biological children? When we ask which of a person’s children are their “real kids” or which of a child’s siblings are their “real” brothers and sisters?

Adopted kids belong, just as much as biological children. A family grows and stretches to accommodate those who become part of it — whether by birth or adoption. Adopted kids aren’t the last resort, a charity case, or a pet project. They are part of the family. They belong, fully and forever.

The same is true for foster kids. A foster family is a “real” family in every sense of the word, and foster kids belong. Although their physical presence within the family may be temporary, for as long as they are there, they belong. When they leave, the family grieves as they would the loss of a biological child. Their absence leaves a hole because they were — and still are, in a sense — part of the family.

Kids Are Just as Important as Adults.

Not only are foster and adopted kids just as important and valuable as other kids, but they are just as valuable and important as adults. When we treat kids as though they are important, we aren’t indulging them — we’re aligning ourselves with God’s view of children. Over and over again, Scripture emphasizes the value of children.

Both Matthew and Mark relate Jesus’ teaching that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” When he caught his disciples rebuking children who wanted to be near Him, Jesus went on to say,

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (See Matthew 18:2-6; Matthew 18-10-14; Mark 9:36-37, 42; Mark 10:13-16.)

We need to treat children as though they are valuable and worth our time, love, and respect, even when we don’t understand them, because that’s how Jesus treated them. Their needs and feelings are just as important and valid as any adult’s. Little voices aren’t any less important, and their feelings aren’t any less real.

We all know foster and adopted kids are people, too. We know they matter. We know they’re precious in God’s sight and made in His image. We just need to act like it — starting with rooting out any subconscious beliefs that undermine their value.

Want to hear more about this topic?

Grab a cup of coffee and join us on this week’s podcast:

Episode 68


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My name is Kristin Peters. I married my husband, Robert, in 2010, and we had our baby girl 5 years later, right after he graduated from law school. In fall of 2016, we became certified to foster and soon after received our first placement — an adorable little boy who is 2 years older than our daughter. He felt like part of the family from day one, but we were able to (finally!) make it official in February of this year. In addition to being a wife and mother, I work as a writer, an editor, and the content developer for SHIELD Task Force. You can follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/SHIELDWV), or check out our website at www.shieldwv.com.​

Adoption Language and Three Things Never to Say to a Family

There are certain phrases and questions that send adoptive parents through the roof. They may not look like they are about to blow, but look closely, you may see some steam coming out of the top of their heads, I’ve felt it coming out of mine, all while I had a smile pasted on my face.

I understand adoption has its own lingo. There is a lot of paper work involved in adoption, examining of your home and life (homestudy) and fingerprinting you to  see if you are a criminal. It’s a whole different planet when it comes to being a parent.

Just remember, families are families. Parents are human. Just because someone adopts doesn’t mean you should/could ask parents anything. Let’s turn this around for a minute and pretend you are asking a bio parent these questions.

  1. Your kids don’t look like you. Which ones are your real children?
  2. How much did you have to pay for your kids?
  3. What’s wrong with him? He seems to misbehave all the time. You must not be a very good parent!

How’s that sound? How would you like to be asked those questions point blank at the local zoo or playground.

Let’s look at number one, our kids are our real children. The definition of adoption states that. They are legally part of the family. It’s not a question of eye color, skin color or hair. It’s a legal question. And from the bio side, who doesn’t know at least one family whose kids look nothing like them?  And do people question them as often or freely?

Number two. We all pay for our kids, financially, physically and mentally. Most days it is more of the last two. But, we pay. We just don’t walk around quoting figures. You don’t leave the hospital without that kid racking up a bill for being born, but we don’t talk about it (well, most of us). Can you imagine going to visit your friend in the hospital who had just delivered the cutest little girl you had ever laid eyes on and you say, “How much did you pay for her?”

When a mother is adopting

Number Three. Sometimes we feel like saying this when a child is melting down repitiively, but it is not polite and not helpful. The better thing to say for adoptive parents or bio parents is, “Do you need some help?” Maybe you could get the child a glass of water, or the mother a glass of water. Maybe you could offer to watch the other children on the playground while mom gets the one who needs to calm down some attention. Maybe, if you don’t feel comfortable doing any of those things, you could well, just not stare or say anything at all. Our parenting skills are not the only reason a child will or will not meltdown. There may be other reasons, a special need, a Captial Letter Syndrome (FAS, ADHD, ADD, SPD, RAD). Don’t be quick to judge parenting based on one chid’s behavior. Are all the children in the family struggling with self-regulation? If not, then it is the child struggling, not the parent.

I don’t think it’s difficult to determine what the proper phraseology is for adoptive families, it just takes a few seconds of thought. I’m sure people are curious about adoption and that’s fine. Just don’t ask any question you wouldn’t want to be asked yourself.

It’s adoption Link Up time!

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