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How to be Friends with a Foster Mom

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So your friend has become a foster mom or maybe you just met a new friend and it turns out she’s a foster mom. You like this woman. You want to be close and be a support. You want to understand what this whole “foster mom” business means. But where to start? How can you be a good friend to a foster mom?

Recognize that Foster Moms are mostly just moms. She’s not a saint, she’s not a monster. She’s a mom to kids who need her right now. She isn’t made of different stuff than you, able to turn off her emotions when she needs to or with an unending supply of patience. She’s just passionate about these kids and families and she wants to help, but many of her motherhood struggles are exactly like yours. The fostering part is a unique aspect of her motherhood, but dirty diapers and making dinner and school drop-off lines are all the same no matter how you got into this gig. Building a relationship with a foster mom can begin with focusing on what you have in common as women, as parents. Affirming that she is a mother and that you are doing the same motherhood work is important. She wants her kids to be invited to VBS and she wants to come to your MOPS group and your zoo playdates. Let her know that you see her unique family as just that– a family.

Give her room to talk, but don’t push for details. We know foster care brings out everybody’s curiosity. Is this that toddler we heard about on the news? Are the parents in jail? Does she call you Mommy? Does he have behavioral problems? There are some questions we can answer and some we just can’t. Or at least, we shouldn’t. We are the guardians of these kids’ stories and we need to protect them. As much as we’d like to explain to you why this child is acting like he is or why reunification isn’t happening or why none of us are getting much sleep at night, we may not be able to without compromising this child’s privacy. We don’t want him to become the subject of gossip in the neighborhood or at church or school. We may desperately need to talk to someone about our own struggles, so please don’t feel like you can’t talk to us about foster care or how things are going, just know that when it comes to the stories of these children, we may be guarded or vague.

Let her vent. We need friends who will let us complain a bit about foster care. Okay, we need friends who will let us complain A LOT about foster care. Foster care can be absolutely ridiculous. No one knows that better than foster parents and we’re also the ones who need to be absolute diplomats within the system. We shouldn’t be complaining to the families, to the caseworkers, to the lawyers (unless we’re doing it in a formal complaint kind of way because it’s gotten that bad), so we NEED friends we can voice our frustrations too. If you want to be the kind of friend we trust with our venting, we need to know you can hear us out, ask us questions, and be an encouragement. If we sense that you think we’re crazy to keep doing this with as frustrating as it is, we won’t keep telling you about it. We need to get it out of our system so we can dive back in. Let us vent without feeling like you have to help us solve anything. The problems may not be solvable, but your support may make them more bearable.

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