Friday, February 02, 2007

Foster Children and Birth Children: bursting the bubble

Another post pulled from the saved draft list. This was first drafted on October 2, 2006

As parents we keep our children in bubbles. All good parents do it to some degree. We turn off the news when the images are too violent. We restrict what they can watch on television. We take them to the library and carefully pick out the books we want them to read.

Depending upon our politics we pick out different books. Had they been available I would have brought home King and King or Heather Has Two Mommies, but they weren't. When Andrew was small I edited books as I read them. I have an old Raggedy Ann and Andy novel in which they keep discovering candy. In my version about half the time I changed the candy to fruit and vegetables, or whatever Andrew's favorite food at the time was. Some books I just re-wrote, creating a new story to go with the pictures. I do a great socialist version of Barbar the Elephant.

Still, we cannot keep them in the bubbles forever, and of course it would not be a good idea to do so. There are bad things in the world and our kids do need to learn about them. Little by little, we or they or the world poke holes in the bubble.

Some of my most heartbreaking parenting moments were when I have had to explain something to my kids that I was not ready for them to hear. Explaining to five-year-old Andrew what war is. Explaining to 8-year-old Brian that we were resigning from our church because the council had decided that a gay man could not serve communion. The looks on their faces as they try to understand how it could be that adults could behave so badly. Weren't grown-ups supposed to be good?

I've been reading some studies of fostering children and it is surprising, though perhaps it shouldn't be, how much the parents seem to think that they can bring a hurt child into the family bubble without bursting the bubble.

They...we...think only of bringing traumatized children into the bubble. We think we will bring these children into our happy homes; we will surround them with love; we will help them to heal. What we don't fully realize is that we are bringing the outside world into our homes.

I don't want to talk anyone out of fostering, but it is important to realize that you cannot keep your children innocent and do fostering at the same time. When you become a fostering family your biological children will learn two things:

1. Terrible things happen to children.
2. People like you do what you can to help.

Are your children ready to know that?


  1. The way my older kids feel, the looks on their faces when they hear some of what has happened to their younger siblings, before they got to us...well it is both hard and good at the same time.

    They don't like it, they want to make sure that they are a part of it not happening to other kids and it makes them slightly more tolerant of some related behaviours from the young ones.

    I thought about it a little before our youngers came and talked about it with my olders. I am so glad that I did.

    Very good points.

  2. What an excellent post. I would only add that bringing traumatized children in can burst parents' bubbles, too, as many, many adults don't really know what these children's worlds are like, even aside from the abuse.


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