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.
Here were some of those answers.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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?
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.
The world is a big and fascinating place.
What do you genuinely not understand??
Sometimes what you don't understand isn't that crazy of an idea, but it still doesn't make any sense to you.
"Why can I never find my shoes?" for example.
It's A Skill All Mother's Attain
"Why when my mother asks me to go get her something and I can't find it, but when she gets up and looks for it, the thing she asked me to get was right in front of me."
"It's called refrigerator blindness:"
It's A Game We All Play
"The economy, as in I understand everything hypothetically, but have no clue how Im going to implement my "knowledge." Yeah I know how a mortgage works, and I know how taxes work, but what do I do? Just go to the bank and say "1 mortgage please!" I just feel like Im missing something about the "real world" and since Im 17, Im only a couple years off it"
"1 Mortgage please" is just about right lol don't worry you're young. There's still people in their 30s and 40s out there who don't understand these concepts either. Just the thought of you trying to understand these concepts at your age puts you ahead of the curve. Stay curious and always ask questions."
Looking At You, Comments Section...
"When native English speakers can't:"
"Editing so ya'll can stop commenting the same ones:"
A lot of science goes deep into the territory of sounding made up. It's all real, it has to be. Otherwise it wouldn't be something we could study. Yet even with those explanations, to some it feels like there's a bit of fiction behind it.
It's Magic. Only Explanation.
"I know there's grooves but how does a needle going over those tiny grooves make such a specific sound, like the vocals, guitars, drums, keyboards, or any other instrument? And how did people invent this so long ago?"
"I've seen closeups of a needle in a groove but it still doesn't make sense to me how a few ridges can produce these sounds exactly. And how do they even put those specific grooves in there, especially over a century ago."
It Just Keeps Growing And Growing And...
"What's in space and the absolute vastness of it"
"I took astronomy in college only thing I remember is that humans will never be able to comprehend how big space is or the distance"
"From what I know, the speed of light is the limitation we're facing. The light from extremely far away places is expanding faster than the speed of light can reach us so in an infinite amount of time, we'll never get to see or even know about what was there."
All I Know Is You Plug It In And...
"I've read the theory and explanation, even simplified ones and I just still don't understand. I've done some calculations in uni for it and I had to mentally separate that it was electrical theory to understand the equations."
"Definitely black magic."
Maybe go for a walk in the park. Look at some trees. Those are easy to comprehend. No need to stretch your brain to the point of breaking.
"NFT's for me it's just online pictures you speculate with"
"You've figured it out then."
"I really hate the NFT bandwagon, because I still find no sense to it after trying to read about it every chance I get and I feel this is the line that turning me from tech-savvy to the uncle you need to teach how to use his phone."
It's All A Bit Wibbly Wobbly
"to be fair none of us genuinely understand. we're merely pretending to, by making it relative to us. good answer"
"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff"
No On Really Knows And ISN'T THAT TERRIFYING
"Either it always existed, which is a thermodynamic nightmare which makes no sense because how can a chain of events not have a start, or it did have a start, which is preposterous because time (spacetime) is a PRODUCT of expansion; there literally was no "before" the big bang because there was no time to have a point in to call "before"."
"Ontologically, ONE of these statements has to be at least nominally true, but BOTH are f-cking bananas."
There's ideas, concepts, scientific theories, you can hear and be retaught many times yet still not fully understand. And that's okay. You don't have to understand everything. Just accept we're moving forward, in time, in a universe we don't fully grasp, and move on with your life.
You know what?
I genuinely like being an adult. I don't exactly like paying bills (who does, right?) but it's nice to know that I have my independence and that there is no one else impeding on my time. When I was a kid, I was very annoyed with the rituals of life, like going to school and seeing the same terrible people each day. Being out and about in the world, being free of these things, has been a game-changer.
But there are things you're never really prepared for, such as the fact that there's always something to do.
We heard more after Redditor Bootyshortsforcorgis asked the online community,
"Adults of Reddit, what part of being an adult caught you completely off guard because no one talks about it?"
"Even when you think..."
"How absolutely constant it all is. Even when you think you're getting a break, like a vacation, you're just doing other adult things you don't normally do in your everyday life."
Like I said... there's always something to do. Yeah, it can get to you sometimes.
"After 40+ weeks..."
"After 40+ years on this planet, you can still be traumatized by something that happened in your childhood."
Time doesn't heal all wounds, people. You know what does? Addressing those wounds. Therapy is important.
"How much I..."
"How much I would need to lie on the floor to make my back feel better."
"That many do not mature or grow up after high school."
Ain't that the truth. It's why I'm glad I no longer live in my old neighborhood.
"Having to decide..."
"Having to decide what to eat for the rest of your life. It can turn into laziness which leads to unhealthy eating. I don't wanna do all that cooking when I can just throw a pizza in the oven. Even though I know deep down I need to eat more veggies and not have food go to waste."
"That you'll spend..."
"That you'll spend a huge portion of your life doing things you really don't want to do (work, cleaning, being around people you don't like)."
Also true. One of the things that I do like about the pandemic? More time at home. I despise commuting. Do not miss it in the least.
"The complete unwillingness..."
"The complete unwillingness of most people to have difficult conversations. Most people would be perfectly happy carrying on like nothing is going on."
"Realizing that your parents were also just trying to figure it all out."
That they are. Many of us have become more forgiving of our parents as a result. Note that this doesn't necessarily apply if someone's parents are or were abusive.
"High school and college..."
"The opportunity to meet people is limited compared to when you were in high school or college.
High school and college provided you with extra activities/clubs to do that helped you meet people with similar mind-sets/interests as you. When you graduate, you lose seeing those people consistently or even at all.
So when you make it to the real world, the friends you did make from those things, aren't as available as they used to be. It can be hard to meet up and do things like you used to."
"You move out..."
"You move out and suddenly realise there are no pens. Your parents have lots of pens, but, you realise they never bought pens, they just had lots of them. Where did all those pens come from? Years of accumulation."
No one said adulthood was easy, but hopefully you'll be a bit more prepared now that you these observations in mind.
As for me... I will never miss being a teen. I'm good where I'm at.
Have some observations of your own? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments below!
What if? That could happen. You never know. All thoughts that muddle the mind. It is unhealthy to live life in a vacuum of despair and scare but really... you do never know. And anything can happen.
So! How to proceed. First we must figure out are you scared or cautious? And are those messages getting confused? They are important questions.
It's natural to be concerned in life, and it's smart to be ready, but living in fear is no good. For instance, serial killers exist. In fact several are reading this now. That can't stop us from going outside. Can it?
Redditor u/IgnoreAndScroll404 wanted to chat about all the things that leave us shooketh in life, because maybe, you never know. They asked:
What unlikely event are you terrified will happen to you?
I hate elevators. I'm claustrophobic. I am sure death by elevator is imminent. Has it happened to others? Yes. Will it inevitably happen to me? Yes. I mean maybe. Who can tell.
The EndFail New York Knicks GIF by Indiana PacersGiphy
"Being impaled by a log falling off of the back of a truck, final destination style."
Over Troubled Water...
"A bridge collapsing when I'm driving over it."
"Back in '93 my aunt, uncle, cousin, and I were on a road trip from Illinois to Massachusetts. We drove through NYC and we entered Manhattan on the George Washington Bridge. During that year al-Qaeda had plans of using high powered explosives in New York and one of their targets was the GW bridge. Thankfully the FBI foiled that plot before it could be carried out. I distinctively remember as we were on the bridge I was hoping it wouldn't collapse."
"Die before retirement."
"This. All that crap for nothing. This is why you should avoid overtime even if you love what you do, you're not only giving up time now but also time later. Stress will cut your lifespan down as fast as anything."
"I'm afraid that one day I'll travel to a country that's got a lot of ice. I'll for some reason, cut a hole in the ice so I can jump in. Swim a little and then not be able to rise to the top due to all the ice and can't find the way out! I've had literal nightmares about this."
Clues...clue turnaround GIF by Paramount MoviesGiphy
"I'm a woman who watches too much true crime. I'm so riveted when watching, but later in the middle of the night I wake up and repeatedly check the doorway for serial killers."
Danger. Danger is all around us. Even in the house we're in trouble. We're never safe.
The Wavetsunami GIFGiphy
"Dying by tsunami."
"This. I am simultaneously fascinated and terrified of tsunamis. I have dreams about running from tsunamis about once every couple of months, sometimes I survive, sometimes I don't, but its so freaking scary to think about. And yet I also like to look up footage of tsunamis online for some reason, like some kind of Stockholm syndrome."
"A brain aneurism. Thanks, Archer."
Rabies. Despite the fact that I'm vaccinated and the chances are low as hell that I would end up with it if I got a booster shot after exposure."
"It is basically the zombie plague from horror movies. Sure, it turns out the logistics of zombie infection doesn't lead to hoards of zombies roaming the streets. But seriously it's a ridiculous nasty disease. My grandfather worked with the virus as some sort of researcher. I got an illuminating email from him back when I was in school doing a report on rabies. Not my favorite disease by a long shot."
"I am scared a plane will crash into my house. Not actually because of 9/11, I had this fear since before then because of the major event near San Diego California where 2 planes crashed into each other mid-air. Bodies and plane parts etc fell all over a suburban neighbourhood. It's one of my biggest nightmares and still bothers me to think about that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Southwest_Airlines_Flight_182"
Knock me out...Tired Monday GIFGiphy
"Doctors doing things without my permission. Such as while under anesthesia, ignoring my requests for something to not happen, claiming I'm incompetent to make decisions, etc."
Life is a gamble. You gonna play or just wait out your turn? That is a more serious question than you think.
Capitalism wants to push its workers to work for ultimate productivity--even if that comes at the expense of other things. A worker's well-being has been placed second to their productivity in America for too long. That time is changing now.
Workers are no longer willing to be completely mowed down for a paycheck. Something's gotta give--and either it's the money or the job. And more people are willing to stand up for themselves.
"What was your 'I'm not paid enough for this s**t' moment?"
Here were some of those answers.
Think Of The Children
"Telling a grown a** man that he shouldn't be sh*tting in a school parking lot. I was eating lunch in my car and saw him in the rear view mirror."
"I got out of my car and shouted as loud as I could SIR YOU CANNOT POOP THERE, not to get his attention so much as to make him, you know, not sh*t on the side of my school building. And embarrass him out of doing it again."
"I was pissed off, too, there were two portapotties within sight of where he was."-8dogsinatrenchcoat
"When a customer had a full-blown adult tantrum on the floor of the supermarket I was working at because we were out of red cabbage two hours before we closed on Christmas Eve."
"Mind you that almost everyone eats red cabbage on Christmas here in Germany. To top this off she also threw frozen bread rolls after me because I told her to have her tantrum outside."-Lelexxia
Knowing Your Value
"While working with a client as a consultant employed by a consulting agency. The client tried to hire me full time and offered me triple the salary."
"That was like the wtf moment which made me research the market value of my skills and turned out I was super underpaid. So I left and found a new job straight away."-vegetable-table-man
It's hard to think of ourselves in terms of money, since we aren't made to be consumed for value.
Gotta Love A Truck Stop Moment
"So I'm working this register at a truck stop circa 2011. It's by a door that gets very little traffic so I mostly just watch the gift shop area and try to deter people from stealing."
"It's an overnight shift about 3 am. This man comes barreling in bleeding from his hand and yells 'IVE BEEN STABBED!'"
"Immediately I call for security. My manager is nearby. Security calls 911 on their way and shows up a few moments later. This guy is bleeding profusely, all over my freshly mopped floor mind you."
"I'm off to the side 'Sir where is the stabber?!' My manager is asking for towels, so I bring a clean towel. Again I ask 'SIR, where is the stabber?!'"
"My manager and security are saying stuff like 'Put pressure on it. Go wave down the ambulance when they arrive!' So at this point I'm practically yelling 'There is a stabber on the loose in that parking lot some where and I'm not going out there until I know where he is!'"
"Finally the guy goes 'Oh he was at the truck stop across the street. We got into an argument it wasn't random.' Relieved and now no longer fearing for my safety I went out to wave down the ambulance."
"Unfortunately $8/hr is not enough to get stabbed over."-ItsTylerBrenda
Ice Ice Baby
"I worked at a Starbucks in a grocery store and a customer got mad because she wanted a drink cold but it was served hot.
"The girl taking her order was new and didn't ask her if she wanted hot or cold, I was making the drinks so went with what was on the cup."
"So she threw it at me, while still freshly hot. Burned my face down to my stomach. I was 5 months pregnant. I quit a week later."-Zealou_luv
Sometimes, Spirit Is Inappropriate
"So if you're familiar with Build-A-Bear, you know the happy faces the employees are supposed to have. You might also be familiar with the bear stuffing process."
"You pick a bear, bring it to me, pick a heart and you do a little dance (or whatever else I'd pick) I'd stuff the bear, you put the heart in and I stitch it up."
"There was a couple that came in one night in January 2008. She was extremely pregnant. They came in and pick one of the little blue bears. I asked how they want it stuffed, the normal."
"And then when they pick the heart oh, they also pick one of the fancy hearts that has a heartbeat. Then tell me that their son, who she is still pregnant with is going to be stillborn. And they are making a bear together to give to him to be buried with."
"Obviously, I immediately tone down to the happy-go-lucky bullsh*t. The store was empty so it didn't really matter. And no, I didn't make them do the little dance and wish that you do for most people."
"I finished the bear myself, walk them through the clothing, check them out myself and then close the store. I got written up the next day for not showing the Build-A-Bear spirit. I was 16. I quit and got into a screaming match with that dumba** manager."-enemyoftoast
Mary Mary Quite Contrary
"When the boss said he was going to hire 'Mary' back. Mary, the woman who was fired for having her friends call me with death threats because I wouldn't switch days off with her."
"Mary, the woman he told me he was never in a room alone with because she was 'the type to claim sexual harassment'."
"He hired Mary back and gave her my job after I quit. He was fired 6 months later over the sexual harassment claim filed by . . . . Mary."-jaimystery
We will never put our mental and physical health at risk without being duly compensated.
"I was on a royal navy warship and we'd pulled into Hull UK for a visit. Their dockyard regulations prevented the ship from discharging solids overboard so the total of all the crews toilet flushings were diverted to a holding tank so we could discharge it overboard when back at sea."
"After the crew had been in port for two days, which for most involved copious drinking and then finishing off with a large curry or spicy kebab, the additional load on the system was too much for the circulating pump inside tank."
"The pump was also used pump the contents overboard so needed to be fixed before we went back to sea. Unfortunately I was duty electrician the day the pump failed."
"The contents of the tank was about a foot and half deep! I suited up with waterproofs and copious amounts of duct tape to seal the seams and descended."
"The pump was bolted in place and to free it I had to work with my face about four inches from the liquid curry and beer smoothies as I bent over. I definitely want getting paid enough... But I was given an order and it was my job, so I just got on and did it."-Androm57
"Was working in a large bakery for my first job at 15. Tried to pull a six foot tall baking tray but there's a lip to get the tray over, started to fall on me and caught it with my forearms, burning myself (not terribly, but still not great feeling)."
"Told my boss and showed him my swelling, reddened forearms and asked to go home. He said I could, once I'd mopped out the bottom of all the 10+ freezers and then he left, leaving me alone."
"I left as soon as he did and then rode my bike home to take care of my burns."-therustedrobot
The Donors Need To Be Coralled
"Working for a nonprofit. At a fundraising dinner, a major donor touched my knee then later my butt and flirted heavily. I am a woman and was 25 at the time."
"When I brought it to my supervisor I was told that is just something you have to put up with when fundraising if you want to make the organization money."
"Stayed at that job a few months before I was fired for not being happy enough. Note that after that incident I refused to attend events where the creep would be there.. Can't say I was sad."
"Got a job that paid twice as much and came without sexual harassment. An employment lawyer probably would have loved if I called them, but I lacked the confidence to take that big of a stand."
"Now I would absolutely take action. I would actually probably yell in the moment to get your forking hands off me. Which would have been awkward for him because his wife was present."-smughippie
There you have it. Across the board, people have put their foot down when it comes to work. If you want higher paid work, you need to pay me more.
Let's never settle for less again.