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Vol. 3, No. 1 • Fall 1998

What I'd Like Foster Parents
to Know: Expectations and
Desires of Children in Foster
Care

by Damien Jackson

Recently, a group of current and former foster youth were asked what they would most like foster parents to know about youth in care. The group identified a number of key issues they felt should be addressed or at least acknowledged by foster parents and the NC Division of Social Services. Their comments, both insightful and heartfelt, are categorized by subject and captured below.

On foster parent’s knowledge of youth’s background
Charles (age 16): “I think that foster parents should know the background of the foster/adoptive kids in their home. Sometimes they don’t know, and when we come into their homes they don’t treat us like a regular child. The first time something bad happens, they say they will take us back because they don’t know the background of why we behave the way we do.”
Erica (age 17): “DSS should let the foster parents know the background of the kids. They [the foster parents] really won’t know how to handle them if they don’t do this. If we do something bad, we get the whole book thrown at us. I know that we are not their biological children, but we deserve to be treated the same way.”

On dealing with biological parents
Karen (age 21): “The foster parents should leave it up to the youth to talk about the birth parents. Foster parents should never attack the birth parents for any reason.”
Erica: “It was hard enough for me to go through what I went through and still have contact with my birth parents. When I went to see my dad, everyone’s mouth dropped. What he did to me was wrong and I hate him for it, but I also still love and respect him as my father. My foster mother was pretty supportive of me seeing my parents and I appreciated that.”

On the transition to a new foster home
Crystal (age 15): “We should get to interview foster parents before being placed with them. I didn’t like some of my foster parents and I wanted DSS to know this before I was placed.”
Erica: “New foster parents should give us space and time to adjust . . . time to just think about it.” Charles: “Space is important because it lets us get to know the surroundings and feel like we can move around a bit. This is important so that we don’t go off on the foster parents in the first few days.”
Kokita (age 14): “I think its good for the foster parents to state the house rules up front. Because if you don’t know them, they’ll say ‘you should have known this’ or ‘you shouldn’t have done this.’”

On integrating into a foster family
Kokita: “The parents should not compare us to their (biological) children in a negative way. They do this often and they shouldn’t.”
Karen: “It should be up to the youth what they want to call the foster parents and the foster parents should respect that. To me, no one can replace my birth parents, so for someone to ask me to call them “Mom” and “Dad” is out of the question and disregards how I feel.”

On respect
Karen: “We deserve to be respected by our foster parents. We have the right to be listened to and to voice our opinions.”

Damien Jackson is a writer who works for the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute.

Copyright © 2000 Jordan Institute for Families