Each year during Foster Families Week, the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association sponsors a Drawing and Writing Contest for school-aged children and youth. The purpose of this contest is to create awareness within the school system about foster care and to give young people an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences.
Often children have an ability to tell things as they see it, which can lead to some interesting observations. Other times they have a great ability to clearly state what may not be obvious to everyone. When asked why foster homes are important, one student replied: “Foster families are really important to have in our community because they provide safety to children in need… Foster families are also important because they can protect children. Foster parents are very caring and helpful.”
When we talk about foster care, most people can recognize that leaving their home would be difficult for most children. Not everyone realizes that it is also difficult for the child’s family. One child said: “Foster care is a service for children whose family is troubled and the household is not safe for the child anymore.
The child is then sent to a new family called a foster family. This is an extremely hard time for the child… But I can imagine it being way harder for the parent.”
Foster care is meant to be temporary and most children in care eventually return to their biological parents’ home. This involves teamwork by the social worker, foster parent(s) and biological parent(s). It is important for people to realize that any family can have problems, and nobody knows how they may react if they were faced with the same situation. Simply put: “Everyone needs a helping hand sometime/somewhere in life and to children in care; a foster family would provide that.”
The following statement made by a child reminds us all to be a little less judgmental. “A lot of people create stereotypes about kids in care; that they grew up without good parents. But just because you’re in foster care does not mean that your parents are bad. It only means that they couldn’t supply what you needed.”
Contrary to what some people believe, when children are in foster care, it doesn’t mean that their parents love them any less than any other family. In the words of one child: “Your parents and family love you very much; it’s just that they can’t properly take care of you at the moment.”
Children in care are children first; and sometimes this gets forgotten. They have the same needs and wants as your children, nieces/nephews or grandchildren, but their family situation or life circumstance may be different. The following comment comes from an essay written by a young person in care, “The main stereotypical view that people have of children in care is that they are problem children and they are too much of a difficult task… We are not problem children, we have issues and struggles like everyone else in the world, it’s just ours are not our fault and they were brought on at a time in our life when we couldn’t handle it. Also as much as some people wouldn’t think it, we are loved by our parents, grandparents and anyone who gets to know us.”
As you can see, the entries in this contest demonstrate that some students have a greater understanding of the issues than others. Recognizing that there is a lot of misinformation in the community, we have developed presentations to engage in a dialogue about how everyone’s family circumstance can be different, and that this is okay.
If your school or community group would like to have a presentation(s) of “Different Kinds of Families,” call Amy at 709-754-0213, toll free at 877-754-0218 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can also help by talking to your children or your friends about what they know about foster care. Some parents have shared with us that they are quite surprised at the results. If you or someone that you know is thinking about becoming a foster parent, you can call our office at the numbers above or visit our website at www.nlffa.ca.
In recognition of Foster Family week, I will end with the following quote, also written by the young person noted above.
“I would like to say that there are so many wonderful people giving all they can give to help babies, children and youth… I’d like to thank all of the people who are or ever were foster parents even though you might not have been mine, you have such a big heart and I admire you so much for that. Keep giving.“
NL Foster Families Association