People Who've Aged Out Of The Foster System Without Being Adopted Explain What They Wish Prospective Parents Knew

People Who've Aged Out Of The Foster System Without Being Adopted Explain What They Wish Prospective Parents Knew

The foster system, while unfortunately necessary, is inherently broken. It results in traumatized kids and several groups of families who ultimately "use" the system for their own gain.

Sometimes foster care ends in adoption and a loving match, but sometimes all it ends in is pain and the need for more therapy. Though folks with good intentions can be found, it takes a special kind of person to be able to sink themselves into the constant love and difficulty that comes with fostering kids.

u/fourleggedfishfood asked:

[Serious] People who aged out of the foster system without getting adopted, what do you wish prospective parents/adopters would know about your experience?

Here were some of those answers.

Managing Resources

Sometimes it's better to age out of the system since the state will pay for your schooling until 23 and medical until 26 (look into your own state laws).

You can always formally adopt later, but if you do so before, there will be loads of legal hoops to jump through due to how the system is run.

Aside from this, allow them to be kids. Teach them things like finance and get them a way to build credit, also how to apply for loans and work with investments (both financial and also goods).


Love Them First

I know that this doesn't answer the question... Foster dad here. My sister adored a few kids and had a hard time. Someone gave her the following terrible Advice. "you don't have to love them, you just have to tolerate them". Terrible advice that my sister lived by.

I live by a much different philosophy. I try to treat our foster kids the same as my own. That being said, I understand that they have many life experiences that I have not had and probably can't comprehend.

I try to give them a little more space and patience. At the same time we try to provide some structure and make sure the understand expectations. They get the same amount of emotional support our kids get and as much physical love as they'll tolerate.

We're also in the process of adopting a little boy. He's lived with us since the summer. He's slowly transitioned from calling us by our first names to mom and dad. The other day he even said "love you" as he left to play with some friends. First time, we were a little shocked.


Assume The Best

Don't treat your adoptive kid(s) differently than your real kid(s), foster kids are not always abused so try not to assume the worst, be willing to be patient with your family member(s) while they navigate their new situation.


To Build Trust

I was a temporary ward but hopefully it's okay to comment.

One piece of advice that I'd like to give to prospective parents is to not badmouth the child's biological parents. It's of no benefit for a child to hear an adoptive or foster parent going on about your parent's issues like addictions or not showing up for court or visits.

It doesn't help your self esteem when you hear negative things about them. When people did that I almost instantly disliked them for doing that so I never trusted them. It also made me feel like they were using my sad story to make themselves look like heroes and it annoyed me.


A System For Comfort

I ended up with a bonus teen in February of 2020. My son's gf needed a place to stay and her family life was rough at the time. She has lived with us since then and while she talks about moving out at 18 in 6 months, I tell her she doesn't have to move out so quick. I didn't get financial compensation for having her (never my intention) but it did make things tight as a single mom.

It has been awesome watching her blossom here. Christmas was interesting as she shared her past experiences. She worked part time to be able to give her huge extended siblings gifts. It is prepping me for foster work after both kids move out later.

The other thing that started happening as she got used to me, was she asked me where I was going and when I would be home. My son didn't do that and he also stays at his dads part time. I learned it was trauma she had as a young child with bio mom abandoning her with younger sibs and being put in bad situations. So now I make sure she knows my schedule.

I try to treat her as my child. She adds stuff to the food list, and gets shopping trips to get shoes, underwear, makeup, hair stuff- she is biracial so her hair is different than mine and needs different products. Over the years, kids have always been welcome to stay for a little while to a long while.

Kicking kids out of foster care at 18 with no safety net is immoral.


The Kids Are The Best Parts

Not 100% sure about whether I can reply - I'm a foster parent for a few kids who have aged out. In general, the advice I'd offer other parents is what folks have already suggested - treat them no differently, don't assume the worst, assume good intentions, etc.

What I would offer to other parents that might be different, would be a few things

  • how important different foundational assumptions are. Don't assume kids know how to deal with time or schedules. Assume kids have food security issues. Don't assume they have any idea how to safely navigate the internet. Etc
  • TALK to the kids. Just talk to them and ask them what they want. And, ya know, execute against what they want.
  • The system is often harder than the kids. Protect the kids against the system itself.

Slow And Steady

Treat your foster kids as more or less equals who you are letting live in your house at first. Go slow. They are going to believe you're only in it for the money and not trust you. Giving them chores or too many restrictions are going to make them really stressed and annoyed. Find a way to connect with them. Play a board game or take them out for lunch. Talk to them like they are your friend. Eventually over time if you do things right they'll come to see you as a parental figure and not a warden or stranger. Hopefully someday they'll see you AS their parent. Just take it slow. Okay?


Skills Need To Be Taught

I wish people would understand just how developmentally delayed some of us are. Between severe adhd and years of horrible abuse and neglect, I was nowhere near the level of life skills that caregivers would expect of me, and it led to so much added stress and trauma.

Knowing you're going to age out on your own is so much added pressure, and it feels like people just expect us to be able to rise to the challenge even more so than our peers outside care, despite having none of the tools or support they do. It's really f**king hard.


Less Rejection

I'm not a foster kid or former foster kid. But I'm a therapist for teen girls in group homes who mostly end up aging out. It sucks. We need more foster homes willing to take teens. The system is broken and it perpetuates a sense of hopelessness for anyone who actually gives a damn.

Also, most of these kids have been in for YEARS bouncing from home to home. Stop giving notices so easily. Ask the social worker for help, get in family therapy, figure out what the kid likes and support them doing that thing. They aren't some thing you picked up at the store and you can return because they cuss or yell sometimes. Even if they smoke or "are disrepectful" they deserve to be kids and have a safe and stable environment.

Just my opinion.


The Trauma

That moving from home to home transporting your stuff in trash bags and getting a new mom and dad all the time is exhausting and causes trust issues.

No, we don't believe you love us (because we've been moved out of previous homes), no we don't trust you (again, it's not you, it's what we've been through) and that we probably have anxiety disorder which manifests itself differently in everyone (with common themes- jumping at loud noises, tapping our foot, etc.).

We might be quiet, we might talk too much because we are accidentally overcompensating. We don't know who we are because our entire existence has turned into a coping mechanism. Coming out of this will take time.

Edit: also if you foster us for years and never adopt, we assume you are doing it for the money and badge of being a "good person."


Years later

I aged out at 21 because I was a full time student. My mothers rights were never terminated so I wasn't able to be adopted. My advise is don't give up on them and just because we age out doesn't mean we don't need you anymore. At the ages of 18 or 21 we are still basically kids.

If you do plan on severing ties after they age out at least teach them about money management, savings and building credit, family planning, resume writing, interviewing skills and make sure they have at least one good set of interview clothes. Those are just a few things that immediately come to mind for me.


Survival mode

I wish that my foster parents would know that I didn't mean to be so feral. I wasn't removed from my bio family until I was 12. I had a hard time unlearning my survival skills or figuring out which ones to keep. For the most part, I enjoyed most of my foster homes. At 17 I was placed with a family that is still my family.

It's really hard for a child to reconcile losing their whole world. I lost all my pets, my friends, and oh yeah- my siblings and parents. Being separated from my siblings caused damage to those relationships that has still yet to be repaired 20 some years later. I still mourn that loss. There is no one alive today who has known me my whole life. Not one single person, and I am young. I don't know how to explain how that feels. Not lonely, but unseen maybe?


Sibling bond

Being split up from my siblings permanently affected our relationships with each other. We have no animosity towards each other but we are like polite strangers. Visiting with each other was always awkward instead of being able to just hang out naturally. My older brother and I went to live with our dad when I was 13 but I never got to live with my younger siblings once we were split up.

We all live in different parts of the country now and go years between seeing each other in person. I think we all limit how much we interact today because it feels awkward. My brother passed away in October and for about 4 weeks, we were all in touch and I was thinking, "Maybe we will start having more of a relationship with each other". And then the communication just died off again and none of us bother.


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