Foster Care

7 Things You Should Never Say to a Child in Foster Care

As foster parents, the words we choose to use with children in care are important. Here are 7 things you should never say to a child in care!

Foster care can be a complex journey for children in care.

Because of this, it’s important to remember that the words we choose matter.

There are many myths about foster care that may cause us to say things that we shouldn’t. A child in care could take something the wrong way, even if it wasn’t meant to be harmful.

As caring adults, it's important that we speak with empathy and understanding to children in care.

In this blog, we’ll talk about seven things that you should never say to a child in care. 

1. “You must miss your real parents”

The experience of being in foster care is often filled with different big feelings — some children in care may miss their birth parents, but others might also feel relief, safety, or even anger.

For this reason, we should never make assumptions.

Instead, try expressing empathy and listening. You could say something like: "I can't imagine how you must be feeling. If you ever want to talk about your feelings or memories, I'm here to listen." 

This acknowledges their emotions and gives them a space for them to express themselves when they’re ready.

2. “You’re lucky to be here”

The phrase "lucky to be here" implies that the child's presence is solely due to chance, which can make them feel like a burden. 

This is the opposite of how children in care should feel — we want them to feel cared about and loved! 

Expressing how grateful you are to have them in your home is a far better way to go. 

For example, something as simple as: "We're grateful to have you as part of our family” highlights their worth as a cherished member of their foster family.

3. “Why are you in foster care?”

One of the most important parts of being a foster parent is respecting your child’s privacy and boundaries.

For many children in care, the past can be painful to remember — instead of asking questions that might cause sadness, choose a more considerate approach.

Instead, try something like this: "Is there anything you'd like to share with me about your journey?" 

This respects their privacy and allows them to share when they feel comfortable and not because you’re forcing them to.

4. “I understand what you’re dealing with”

Each experience is unique for children in care. Unless you’ve also been through foster care, it’s highly unlikely that you really know what they’re going through. 

It’s better to simply let them know that you want to learn and support them: "I may not completely understand, but I'm here to support you and learn from your experiences." 

It’s okay that you don’t completely understand what they’ve been through — by saying this, you show empathy and your willingness to learn about their journey on their terms. 

5. “Foster parents are your real parents now”

Children in care may have complex feelings about their birth parents and foster parents — it’s not right to make them feel like they have to choose!

Any emotions they have on this subject are perfectly valid. It’s okay for them to have love for their birth parents and their foster parents.

Instead of language that suggests that they need to pick, acknowledge the importance of both sets of parents in their lives. 

For example, you could say something like: "Your foster parents care for you, and it's okay to have feelings for your birth family too." 

This statement validates their emotions and the parental figures in their life.

6. “You don’t look like you’re a child in foster care”

Children in foster care don’t necessarily look like anything — they all come from different backgrounds. The notion of "looking like" a child in care is usually based on stereotypes and misconceptions.

It’s simply something we should never say to a child in care.

Every child in foster care is unique. Just like with anyone else, we want to celebrate their individuality!

7. “Don’t worry, you’ll be back with your family soon”

Unfortunately, the future in foster care may be uncertain and usually depends on the situation of a child’s biological parents. 

Because of this, making promises about a child in care being with their parents again can be misleading — and potentially harmful!

You’ll instead want to be honest while offering stability and support. 

Try something like: "We don't know what the future holds, but we're here for you no matter what." 

Honesty is the best policy — it may be a cliché, but it’s the truth. By saying something like this, you let them know that no matter what happens with their biological parents, they can rely on you. 

Learn All About Becoming a Foster Parent at Our Foster Parent Information Session Webinar

If you’re looking to become a foster parent, but you aren’t sure where to start, we can help.

Our upcoming Foster Parent Information Session Webinar will dive into several topics concerning foster parenting, including:

  • The process of becoming a foster parent
  • Foster parent requirements
  • Support for foster parents
  • And more

You aren’t alone in the foster parent journey — we’re with you every step of the way. Discover the joys of fostering and learn all about the process of becoming a foster parent in our Foster Parent Information Session Webinar!

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