The literal definition of foster care provided by Merriam Webster is “supervised care for orphaned, neglected or delinquent children or for persons mentally ill in a substitute home or an institution on either a full-time or day-care basis.” Unfortunately, this antiquated definition of foster care is being given today – and it paints an undesirable picture. We want to challenge the misconception of foster care and the way children in care are perceived, so come along with us as we define foster care.
What do you think comes to society’s mind when foster care is mentioned? Are there images with droves of unwanted children living in institutions on the outskirts of town? How about underground operations of children laboring in sweat shops making products for the more wealthy members of the human race? It sounds a bit extreme, but society’s concept of foster care is more outdated than you may think.
While Merriam Webster’s definition has some truth to it, foster care is so much more. Even though foster kids have suffered, they are no different than other children. They have hopes and dreams as well and are worthy of the opportunity to be their best. Foster care gives kids a fighting chance for a successful life. It can offer a second chance for the family as a whole through healing for the child and birth parent, reunification and an opportunity for the foster parent to make a lasting impact.
Define Foster Care – A Foster Parent’s Perspective
Sameerah Lewis-Diaab, a foster/adoptive parent since 2003 and FAFS Family Advocate (FFA), has her own personal definition of foster care. “Foster care is opening my home to children that are in need of any level of care. It means giving them a lot of tender loving care (TLC) and nurturing, loving and providing whatever means of security they need – as I would do for my own.” She also believes when and if the child is reunited with his birth parents, the bond that was created should continue.
Wendy Baptiste, a former foster parent, defines foster care as “providing stability, love, care and a healthy family life.” She believes it’s important to understand and have empathy for what’s going on in the foster child’s life – and to give him the support he needs.
While these and many other foster parents understand a foster child has been through negative situations, they do not perceive or treat him as anyone other than family. With love, respect and empathy they make a positive change – one child at a time.
Define Foster Care – Dispelling A Stigma with Education
It’s easy to come to an inaccurate conclusion about anything without having full knowledge. As we truly define foster care, the more people will know that there should be no shame associated with it. The shame comes when there isn’t enough education on how life changing foster care can be. When the light of foster care shines bright, the darker and less accurate definition will be vanquished.
Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) empowers foster parents by giving access to programs that will help them as they continue to pour into the bright futures of their children in care. Our foster children programs are here to support foster families and prepare foster children to be productive and valuable citizens in society.
Thank you to the foster parents who prove that foster care isn’t about shielding society from the unwanted but embracing a chance to make a difference in the lives of children and dispelling the stigma that has too long been associated with foster care.
Salendria Mabrey is a Communication and Development Associate at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.