September 28th is Ask A Stupid Question Day. Teachers started this “holiday” to encourage students to participate in class more often, without fear of being made fun of or being looked down upon. As adults, we often tell children that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but are there some questions that, as adults, we should know better than to ask in certain situations?
While most foster parents are happy to talk with interested or curious people about foster care, they sometimes cringe when they’re asked questions about their family by total strangers. They react this way mostly because these very personal, and sometimes way off-base, questions are usually being asked in front of their kids. Don’t ask foster parents these questions when they’re with their children, not even on Ask A Stupid Question Day:
Are their parents drug addicts?
Foster parents have to keep the reasons their foster kids are with them confidential. Although children frequently come into foster care because of their parents’ drug abuse, there are many other reasons they could be there as well. A parent’s mental illness, the death or incarceration of a parent, extreme poverty leading to neglect and physical or sexual abuse are all reasons a child may be placed in foster care.
Why you shouldn’t ask, not even on Ask A Stupid Question Day: You should never ask a foster parent to violate their foster children’s right to confidentiality. Besides, if any of these situations were yours, would you be comfortable telling a stranger all about them?
What did they do to get put in foster care?
Again, foster parents can’t share the reasons their foster kids are in care, but know the answer to this question is always the same: nothing. Children are in foster care because their parents made bad choices, not because they did. Foster homes aren’t a holding cell for juvenile delinquents. They’re places where children can be kept safe and cared for until they can return home to their birth parents or, if that’s not possible, be adopted.
Why you shouldn’t ask, not even on Ask A Stupid Question Day: Foster children often have self-esteem issues and wrongly blame themselves for their situation, so asking this question in front of them can be damaging, even though that’s not your intention.
They’re such beautiful children. How could their parents not want them?
Foster parents usually have contact with their foster children’s birth parents. They see birth parents try, and sometimes fail, and try again to do what’s required to get their kids back. Foster parents will tell you that most birth parents love and want their children, even if they are not always equipped to care for them.
Why you shouldn’t ask, not even on Ask A Stupid Question Day: Although you mean it kindly and are genuinely bewildered, suggesting that their birth parents don’t want their children in foster care is insensitive, and in most cases, just plain wrong.
They must be really grateful to you for taking them in, huh?
Foster children are often not grateful, or glad, to be without their birth parents, no matter how good their foster parents are. Children love their birth parents, miss them and worry about them while they are in foster care, even if the reasons they were removed were severe. The best foster parents understand their foster children’s emotions and allow their kids to feel them without guilt or pressure.
Why you shouldn’t ask, not even on Ask A Stupid Question Day: Foster children sometimes feel guilty when they grow attached to their foster parents. They feel like they’re being disloyal to their birth parents. That conflict can tear them apart inside, and questions like this can make those feelings worse. But of all the questions we’ve listed, this one is the most likely to get an answer from foster parents. Most will tell you, “We’re the ones who are grateful for having these wonderful children in our lives.”