When to Say No to a Foster Placement

Written by Tina Bauer

Foster parents are always so shocked to hear that my foster parents abused and neglected me while I was in their care. A common response I receive is:  “oh I’d NEVER do that.” Or “how could someone do that?” And honestly I agree with them – but, I want to challenge foster parents to a different point of view. 

You are capable of mistreating children if you don’t first take care of yourself. 

I’m not ignorant to the fact that foster care and being a foster parent is not easy. There’s pressure to say “yes” to placements again and again. Foster parents are parenting children who have experienced ongoing trauma.  But being burnt out is the pathway to unintentionally and unknowingly abusing and neglecting the children in your care. You are not as far removed as you’d like to be from those who do abuse children.

I believe that a keen sense of self-awareness is necessary for all foster parents. Know your limits and know your boundaries. Know when to say “no” to a placement and when to step back for a season of rest. Perhaps you will feel guilty, but trust me – you will do more harm than good if you keep saying “yes” and welcoming children into your home when you yourself are not in a healthy place mentally, emotionally, or physically. 

Having never been a foster parent myself – I can only imagine how hard it is to say “no” to placements.  I want every child to have a safe place as much as anyone else, but I want to gently remind you that if you’re not healthy you’re not a safe place either. 

I’m living proof that experiencing the abuse and toxic parenting (from a foster parent who should have said “no”) has required a lifetime of healing for me. What was supposed to be a safe place ended up not being so. As a vulnerable child I was already in a place of risk and so the combination of abuse + neglect on top of what I had already experienced was a recipe for lifelong struggles. 

Yes, it’s hard for you to say “no” but it’s also hard for me to heal from being parented by those who should have said “no”. 

Hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people. ❤️

You do not have to be a foster parent to support children in foster care. Instead you can…

  • Donate your time to a foster family by cleaning or cooking 
  • Offer to become certified to babysit (will vary county by county)
  • Befriend children in foster care because they can never have too many caring adults in their lives
  • Listen to foster families who are struggling
  • Invite foster families over for dinner and include their kids in foster care 
  • Offer to run errands for a foster family
  • Educate yourself on being trauma informed so that your interactions with foster families will be beneficial 
  • Offer supplies or money when foster parents receive new placements 
  • And so many other ways to support families who are doing foster care

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