Vol. 11, No. 1• November 2006

What's It Like to be a Birth Child in a Foster Home?

The writing contest in the last issue of Fostering Perspectives was a departure in some ways. Instead of asking for responses from children and youth who are or have been in foster care, as we usually do, this time we put the focus on a group of kids that is unquestionably affected by the child welfare system but often overlooked—the birth children of foster parents. For this contest, we asked them to tell us what it was like to be a birth child in a foster home and what they had learned from this experience.

Their answers, which you’ll find on these pages, are diverse and eye-opening, reassuring and surprising. The lessons these children say they have learned include:

  • How to handle stress
  • People don’t always love you back (sometimes they don’t know how yet)
  • It’s important to listen to everyone
  • Kids need a home and a parent to love

I hope that as you read the words of these children you will think about your own experience and what you have learned from your own work in foster care.

—John McMahon, Editor

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Eli, age 10
I live with my grandmother. Last year she asked me if I would like to help her keep foster kids in our home. I said I’d love to! We both enjoy having kids around.

The first kids to come stay with us were twins, a boy and a girl . . . . When they went to live with another family I was sad and missed them.

Now we have a boy my age living with us. This has been harder for me. Sometimes we fight and sometimes we are friends. He’s even in my class at school, so sometimes I get tired of seeing him so much. I’m glad he lives with us, even if we do fight. I don’t always like sharing my room and toys, but I like having a brother.

My granny has thought up ways to help us get along better. She lets us both have quiet time when we need it. And we each get at least one day a week to spend with her by ourselves doing whatever we want to do. The hardest thing for me was learning to share my granny. This has helped a lot.

I hope we get lots of other kids to live with us. It is fun learning about them and making new friends.

Eli’s letter won first prize, for which he was awarded $100

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Daniel, age 10
My family met Tina over a year ago and decided to become a foster home for her and her 15-year-old sister, Britney. Tina and Britney moved in just after Christmas.

When they first came into our home I didn’t know what to expect. I felt a little nervous and a little scared.

Once they moved in things were a little rough around the edges. We had arguments and differences, but we got over most of that. Britney decided not to stay with us. I got very mad at her because I trusted her. I learned that sometimes people won’t love you back. I think she doesn’t know how yet.

Tina stayed with us. She needed us and I really needed her. I think it was meant to be because God brought us together. I learned about how to handle stress because Tina has been and is going through it. When I need her she tries to be there for me. If she cannot I can understand because I love her with all my heart. Sometimes we get in arguments but we try to stop and think it through. I love being a little brother. Tina is a great big sister. I hope we can adopt her soon.

Daniel’s letter won second prize, for which he was awarded $50

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Danetta, age 11
Hello! My name is Danetta and I am in the sixth grade. My mom was glad that someone wanted to know how I feel about foster children, but I was SERIOUS.

Foster children are OK sometimes. The first ones we had were two sisters. They were 13 and 15. I was eight years old then so they were older than me and they liked to help. They didn’t give me any problem. They left after a few days and I was really sad and missed them.

Another girl came. She was 13 years old and a big troublemaker. She argued with my mom and took my things and my clothes. I still liked her but she left after two years with us. I was confused but I knew what was right for our family.

Now we have another girl. She was six when she came to us. Now she is eight years old. She is short and skinny. . . .She has been here for a long time. A long, painful time. She was lying and stealing a lot, but mom helped her. I’ve learned that children need a home and a parent to love. So I have to put up with her and her big mouth. I think she is hyper. I’m glad my mom has children that she can take care of, but sometimes they can get on your nerves, especially if they are small and get all the attention from mom. At one time I thought she had ruined my life and mom loves her . . . more than me. But mom said she has a lot of love for many children, so now I try to play with her and love her.

Dannetta’s letter won third prize, for which she was awarded $25

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Hannah, age 8
Being a foster sister is fun! Our adoption agency is private and we only take care of newborns. Sometimes I get upset when my mom has to take care of the baby because I need her, too. It’s very hard to be with the babies for a long time and then say good-bye. I always kiss the babies and tell them that I love them. I ask my mom if the family is nice or has any children if I’m not there when we give the babies to their forever families. I’ve learned that I can open up my heart and make room for each baby that we care for. I’ve also learned that it is hard to love someone for just a little while, but God always has another baby brother or sister for me to love.

Hannah received $15 for having her letter published

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Jacob, age 8
My parents have been foster parents since I was a baby. I have had some really good times with the foster children who have lived with us. I have a lot of fun playing with the boy who lives with us now; he is 8 years old, like me. When he first moved in he was scared and missed his mommy. I showed him around his new school and helped him make friends.

Some foster children have taught me hobbies like making bracelets, fishing, fixing bikes, drawing, and working with computers. That is what I really like about foster care, the kids all know something different and I get to learn new things. I share what I like, and let the kids play with my toys and books.

My family and I pray for the children each night and hope that they have a fun time with us and aren’t too sad about missing their mom and dad. I know it would be hard to have to move from my family so I try to help the foster children feel comfortable and happy when they move into our home.

Jacob received $15 for having his letter published

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Kennethra, age 12
My parents have not been fostering long. In April 2006 we took in our first [placement], a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl that we hope to adopt. Our family decided to foster/adopt because my mom is a social worker for foster care and she is always helping children and we wanted to give a home to a child.

Being the only birth child in a foster home can be real stressful at times, but other times it’s wonderful! Being the birth child in a foster home, I have learned that at times it’s going to be hard, but at times you have to take the time to think about the foster child’s background that they come from.

Kennethra received $15 for having her letter published

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Meosha, age 16
. . . I have learned that the life that I have, a lot of children would love to be in my shoes. I learned not to take my parents or the privileges I have for granted. I also learned that this isn’t a perfect world, but it is what you make it. Having foster children in my home is a good real-life experience for me because you can hear the things they went through and it gives you strength and encourages you to help those in need.

Meosha received $15 for having her letter published

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Michelle, age 10
Being a birth child in a foster home is sometimes simple and sometimes tough. It is fun because you get to meet new kids to play with. It is hard because they don’t do things the same way we do because of the way they have been brought up. I have learned that it is not as easy as it sounds to have a brother or sister because they are different. I also learned that having other kids at home is fun, but you have to always remember that they might not stay.

Michelle received $15 for having her letter published

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Nicholas, age 6
Even though my mom and dad have had seven foster children I am still loving this whole family VERY MUCH! It’s strange but in my heart I have loved my foster brother and sisters very much! It feels weird that there’s only three birth children and only seven foster children. But I still love it.

I have learned that you always have to listen to everybody, especially Jesus and your parents! I know what it feels like having a baby foster sister or brother because I’ve had a baby foster sister that always wanted to play with me and my sisters and brother.

It’s nice to meet new people but the saddest part is that they have to go. But that’s part of it. But that’s OK.

Nicholas received $15 for having his letter published

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Thomas, age 15
Being the birth child in a foster home is not as fun as I thought. My mom, dad, brother, and I adopted a 13-year-old boy. Here is what I learned—that you don’t get what you think you are going to get.

Becoming an older brother is not easy when you have been the young one for 14 years of your life. Mom can’t do it all and you have to help. Plus, it makes it hard in school, too. People think that you are crazy for adopting a 13-year-old child and not a baby.

Being the birth child in a foster home is hard, but you should never say, “I give up, I can’t do it!” Say, “I can do it!” because it will be worth it in the end to have a little brother. Take it from me.

Thomas received $15 for having his letter published

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Amaya, age 7
At first I thought we would get mean boys and I was scared. I got used to having E. around after about a month. My mommy and daddy told me after a year that we were going to get another boy. I felt better about him because we already had one but I was still a little scared. I knew that E. would protect me from him. When D. moved in my mommy said, we are alike because we are smart and sneaky. I like having my brothers because I love to beat on them and teach me times tables and how to type. Love, Amaya

Amaya received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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Austin, age 7
Having a foster sister live with me is really cool. When she first came I was really nervous. I thought she was weird because she never talked. I liked her hamster, Hamtaro. I like her because she plays with me and my brother. She taught me to skateboard. It is nice having a big sister!

Austin received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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Jacob, age 4
It’s good having a big sister. The first day she came I loved her. She helps me brush my teeth. She loves me and thinks I’m cute. I like having her in my family. I love her very much. She’s the best in the world.

Jacob received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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Jacob, age 6
It is fun when we have foster kids. I like to share my scooters and bikes with them. Also we play with Solomon, my dog. I like it when we have them to play with us on trips to the beach or mountains. I have learned to be a big brother or a little brother to them. Foster kids are cool!

Jacob received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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John, age 9
Foster kids come to my house a whole lot. We play with my little energetic puppy. Her name is Flash. We also play sports like basketball and football. Sometimes the balls go into the woods so I go get them. Sometimes they go with us on trips. To me they are like part of my family.

John received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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Jacob, age 8
My parents have been foster parents since I was a baby. I have had some really good times with the foster children who have lived with us. I have a lot of fun playing with the boy who lives with us now; he is 8 years old like me. When he first moved in he was scared and missed his mommy. I showed him around his new school and helped him make friends.

Some foster children have taught me hobbies like making bracelets, fishing, fixing bikes, drawing, and working with computers. That is what I really like about foster care, the kids all know something different and I get to learn new things. I share what I like, and let the kids play with my toys and books.

My family and I pray for the children each night and hope that they have a fun time with us and aren’t too sad about missing their mom and dad. I know it would be hard to have to move from my family so I try to help the foster children feel comfortable and happy when they move into our home.

Jacob received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

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Lauren, age 7
It is very exciting to have foster children in our home. There are always a lot of kids in our house. The kids are very sweet and like to play with me. I especially like when girls come to our house. I like to play Barbies and baby dolls and will share my toys with them.

I have a 14-year-old foster sister who has lived with us for more than a year; she is very nice to me. She helps me do my hair, my homework, and reads books to me. I call her “sis,” and she thinks that’s funny. I have an 8-year-old foster brother. He is fun, too, but I like to hang out with the girls!

We go on a lot of vacations and like to go camping. We love bringing the foster children with us. I get excited to have the kids come with us because it makes the trip more fun and I like for them to see the great places that we go to.

I’m glad that my mom and dad do foster care. We teach children to love one another and to play nicely with each other. I’m glad to have met all of the kids who have lived with us.

Lauren received $10 for having this essay published in the online edition of Fostering Perspectives.

Copyright 2006 Jordan Institute for Families