View Full Version : How Does a Foster Child Feel?

07-12-2007, 08:08 PM
...Abandoned at age 3?

Any foster parents here?
Anybody ever been in foster care?

Your help would be much appreciated.

07-12-2007, 08:12 PM
You might find some useful information here:

Foster Club: the national network for youth in foster care (http://www.fosterclub.com/index.cfm)

I suspect it differs from case to case tho.

07-12-2007, 08:31 PM
Thanks Cath.

I've been there already. In fact, I hit up all of the websites available. Thought I did the best research, but my soon-to-be editor says she doesn't get a grip on how my protagonist feels about being in care. Sigh. I'll think of something.

07-12-2007, 10:11 PM
This is not exactly the same, but I've worked with kids in orphanages. They are kind of like foster kids because they have a couple of workers who are paid to care for them. The main thing is attachment/trust issues, and this is at any age. Babies freak out when you hold them, toddlers won't look you in the eye, little kids ignore you, and the teens will only answer with one or two words. They can seem pretty unfriendly at first. It takes them a long time to get over this, but after a while if you're consistent they will decide to trust you. Even after that it is still difficult to touch them physically; that seems to be the big thing. With the toddlers and young kids, I could play with them and pick them up now and then, but they would go all stiff if you tried to hug them. And they would trust you in a particular environment, but if anything changed, like going downstairs or outside, they would get all scared and close up again. Very insecure.

07-12-2007, 10:54 PM
You're a genius Jo. You emphasized the "touch" issue and this can work in a pre-existing scene. You're da best. :)

07-13-2007, 02:08 AM
You're a genius Jo. You emphasized the "touch" issue and this can work in a pre-existing scene. You're da best. :)

I always knew I was smart, but gosh... ;)

No problem! PM me if you have any other questions I can help with.

07-13-2007, 05:27 AM
You can check out some info at childrensaidsociety.org. You can get alot from the site. I am interning there as a therapist. The organization is great because it helps kids have a good home while providing all of their services.

Joe Calabrese
07-13-2007, 05:41 AM
Anything you want to know about the foster care system (especially in NJ) just ask.

My wife and I are Foster/Adopt parents of two brothers (now ages 5 and 4), who after a three and a half year trial, the judge finally released the biological parents of their rights last April and we are now free to adopt.

With our daughter, we can now start saying officialy that we are a family of five.

Safe to say that we have years of first hand experience of dealing with everything from the system, the courts, the stares, to the heartaches of taking the kids you love to bed every night for years wondering if it would be the last time you tucked them in..

07-13-2007, 05:58 AM
We're foster parents also. We've had three kids, all babies. The one we have now is 18 months (we've had him since he was 3 months). Like Jo said, trust issues are big. In our training classes we heard a lot about abused kids who would go into foster homes, and not feel loved if they weren't being abused. They think it's a normal way to show love. It's so sad.

07-13-2007, 12:15 PM
Another thing that might be there is REJECTION. This can be at different levels depends on each child. This goes hand in hand with the trust issue.

There are 3 main reactions to rejection.

1) Soak it up like a sponge- this leads to depression, and worst case wanting to kill them selves.
2) The "OK" mask. Every thing is OK. No problem but inside they are usually far from being anywhere near OK.
3) Fight the rejection. This leads to anger, violence and even murder.

A foster kids MAY feel some deep rejection but not know why - Depending on the age of foster/adoption. Even though they may not know what happened with their real parents, rejection often enters into a childs life.

Many kids ajust to be normal kids if the foster carers or adoptees are loving and supportive. This varies depending on the kid and situation. Some still battle with the feeling of not quite fitting in or they can't quite put their finger on it, for many years.

If you want to know more about rejection and how it affects people let me know. Here or PM me.


07-13-2007, 06:52 PM
Thanks to all of you!

Yes, I want to know more. I want to soak up your knowledge. I didn't feel comfortable interviewing a child in care because I felt like I'd be exploiting them. By the way, my YA novel refutes the term "foster child" - instead, I have my character explain that she's a "child in care" - semantics, yes, but these little things add up to larger issues. I can only imagine how it feels to be labeled "foster child" forever - in some cases.

Anyway, I would love if you could give me solid examples of behavior. For example, do you remember a time when your CIC (child in care) showed signs of feeling rejected?

What kinds of extra effort steps do you take to make the child feel at home?

My protagonist has been abandoned at age 3. Her parents aren't coming back. Is it realistic that she's now 14 and realizes that she'll never find an adoptive home and doesn't want one at this point?

How does the CIC act on their first day in your home?

Everybody feel free to jump in with answers. I TRULY appreciate your advice and deep insights.

p.s. Jo, you're funny. Accept your genius card gracefully, please.

Joe Calabrese
07-13-2007, 07:42 PM
My oldest boy would have some jealousy/attention issues whenever there was a direct conflict of attention between him and our daughter.

A for instance.

One night, our daughter picked the bedtime book to be read (and our foster boy knew that his turn would be the next night, but he wanted to pick that night anyway) and he would not pay attention to the book read and had a sulking look most of the time it was read.

But the worst was yet to come when a few days later, I found that book that my daughter picked with a page ripped out. This was his way of dealing with the lack (in his mind) of attention.

Also, there are plenty of times that when scolded or given a time out, he would wait until others were around and say "Are you angry at me? Are you going to hit me?" I have never laid a hand on him but he knows that that will get attention, especially if other people are within earshot.

Another example of this was food. He could eat a banquet and ten minutes later (when other people are around) he would yell out "I'm hungry!!!" This would happen if (I think) he was not getting much attention or wanted more.

Also, when he first got him, all he could say was no to every question asked.

Thankfully he is much better at these issues, but another thing I want to bring up is sibling order.

I can sense that there is something about an eldest child entering a home where he/she is now the middle child. It's tough enough to be the middle child, but worst when the child was a higher rank before being brought into this new home.

07-13-2007, 07:51 PM
Very helpful Joe. Thanks a bunch.
I'm glad you're taking good care of him. He must carry so much pain.

You know, I'm almost ashamed to say that I chose my character's fate as CIC without thinking about the reality of the situation. My first, second and third draft was utterly devoid of the things the CIC has to go through. The court dates. The shifts. The case workers, etc. The ONLY reason I made her a foster child was to show that even without parents, a child can succeed.

I'm so glad my novel was rejected when it was at this stage. Everything happens for a reason.

07-13-2007, 08:00 PM
I was a foster kid for all of a week. Not long enough for any experience?
Pffff. Here's how that week went:

I'm initiated by my foster 'sisters' by way of:

1) I'm to have the top bunk, but am not to go to top bunk if foster sister already in her bed; she feared I'd step on her. I spent 3 nights on the floor.

2) Shown secret stash of pot, bongs, and pipes. Warned that 1) if I tell, I'll be killed while I sleep, or poisoned, and (2) They'll say it's mine. I'm the newbie. I won't be believed. I was dumbfounded that people smoked plants. (I was soooo innocent back then)

3) Have to register in new school. City school. Downtown Los Angeles. This is NOT the preppy school I'm used to. I.AM.GOING.TO.DIE. I'm stared at. Shoulder-shoved. Spit on. Pushed down. Slapped. And all this before I even made it to the office.

4) My new chores consist of picking up dog poop throughout backyard....while attempting to not be mauled by said dog--he doesn't know me; hence, I'm a threat. They lock the door, point, and watch the show, laughing. Pitbulls are all teeth.

5) These are my foster sister's friends. I'm not to look at them. Speak to them. Be in the same room when they arrive to visit. I am the mud on the bottom of her shoe. Remain there, and I can keep breathing. She's here for attempting to smother her sister with a pillow while her sister slept.

6) No food is to be eaten without explicit premission from foster mother. If you eat ANYTHING without permission, you forfeit your right to eat the next meal. And you have kitchen/bathroom duty.

7) I am forbidden to have a ket to the house. Only when having been in residence for 6 months may I sign out a key. It's to be turned in each evening. A missing key means I sleep in the garage for 1 week.

8) I have the bathroom last in the morning. Translation: no bathroom time before school begins.

Monday morning, I went to court. I sat in a room with girls that looked at me like vampires leering at fresh blood. I was handed a pink box. It contained food. Best damned sandwich/apple/juice/cookie I've ever had in my life.
During court hearing, I was told to shut the hell up by my lawyer. I hadn't said a word. I was called several names by him while shuffling behind him down the loooooong corridor.
The judge, disgusted with my parents & seeing right through their scam, gave me the last laugh: I was emancipated (sp?).

Oh, sure, there are those that have had horrific nightmarish experiences in foster homes; but for this stupid white girl (at the time), that was one terrifying experience to be thrown in with strangers, cut throats (literally), druggies....and then court. I'd only ever seen court on television. And it was nowhere near the t.v. type court stuff of today. This was over 20 years ago. You know, when television was timid.


07-13-2007, 08:06 PM
Wow, Inked.

I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. I hesitate to say, but you're kinda funny...and I guess you taught me something. My character can actually have a sense of humor when describing horror.

I really appreciate you sharing this.

Joe Calabrese
07-13-2007, 08:40 PM
I am sorry inked of your experience and pray that no child ever has to go through that.

Star, I would like to mention something that may or may not be the case with your story, but bear with me anyway.

Although the general misconception is that foster parents are only doing it for the money and the money they get goes to buy a new Lexus and the kids suffer for it by sleeping in dirty clothes, eating scraps off the table and exposed to drugs, is just that-- a misconception tainted by the actions of the minority.

Yes. there are foster parents like that. But there are so many more that do it our of love and respect.

I hope that you do not put the foster care system in a bad light because it will only hurt the kids that need good homes, because people will not want to become foster parents if the misconceptions continue.

The top two problems with recruitment is that people do not want their neighbors thinking they are leeches and people think that the kids that come into thier homes will be trouble makers.

I for one would like to see it put in a positive light or at least show good ones and bad to put it in perspective.

07-13-2007, 08:46 PM
I hear you loud and clear Joe!

My first agent sent out my novel with foster mother as evil stepmother.
My second WONDERFUL agent asked: why is this woman so evil?
The answer: I bought into the stereotype. My agent's question changed my whole novel, and I'm so grateful.

Don't get me wrong. I do mention the bad. But my protag ends up with good foster parents, though the mother is a little hard to get along with.

07-13-2007, 09:23 PM
i worked for 6 years in social welfare. did not work directly w/ foster care kids but have observed many. several of my friends do that kind of work. 3 huge mistakes that writers make when portraying social workers-

-1# they show them as uncaring. not the case. think about it--why would anyone go through the required 4 years of college to work a job with that much stress for no pay? social workers care--the system doesn't care.

#2-- (tv movie scene) loving family, a little poverty stricken but carrying on. mom is making up fried oats and lard sandwiches when bad old social workers invade the happy home and drag off the the appealingly ragmuffin children : not going to happen. regardless of what the movies tell you, kids don't get kidnapped by social workers. there are bulging case files on these parents before there is even primary contact. often the agency cannot defend itself in the media because of confidentiality.
always remember, kids love their parents. there is a bond there that is almost impossible to sever. the most abused kid will swear he had a great childhood. when a kid finally breaks with his parents and wants to be taken away--or runs away, something really terrible has happened. saying he is selfish, rebellious, or spoiled does not touch the problem.

#3 :natural parents who love their children are always better parents than foster parents. a real klinker as arguments go. some of the most abusive parents i have ever encountered loved their children . not a doubt of it. just not sanely. as we all know there is healthy romantic love and unhealthy romantic love i.e.- stalking as opposed to a forty year marriage. the same rule applies to parental love.
anyone who has ever had children with playmates has observed some unhealthy parenting on the parts of the playmates' parents. what is borderline and what is unhealthy is a hard call for anyone to make.

God help the person who has to make that call. He/ she needs your support, not your stereotyping--s6

07-13-2007, 09:36 PM
Wow, Inked.

I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. I hesitate to say, but you're kinda funny...and I guess you taught me something. My character can actually have a sense of humor when describing horror.

I really appreciate you sharing this.
I've always had a warped sense of humor; life is what you make of it.
Drop the protective bar over your lap, put your hands in the air, and scream like mad....it's a rollercoaster ride!

Why do you think I became a writer? Me. In a cubicle. Corporate America.
:ROFL: Yeah. In the words of SpongeBob: Nevahh!

07-13-2007, 10:13 PM
I have a friend that has 3 wonderful kids. They adopted 2 others saying she wanted to "improve" the life of 2 needy kids. She has since quit her job and moved to a lake home. (They were always complaing about money problems before which is why everyone was surprised they were adopting...)

Apparently, these kids have ADD or ADHD and are considered "special needs". I thought when you adopted - you didn't get money monthly like foster care - except for medical insurance. I was since informed otherwise. She now lives on the lake & puts the 2 kids in daycare from "8 a.m. - 6 p.m. 'cause thats as long as daycare is open" while her kids enjoy their summer on the lake. I moved a way a few months before this happened & I'm glad. I don't think I can look at her. Its not what I would have expected from her at all. We don't speak anymore - other issues. I really felt she was a wonderful person - I guess money can do strange things.

Anyway - sorry if its off topic - I've always wondered how the kids feel being added to a family only to be made outcasts again. Mindless venting again. Sorry.

07-13-2007, 10:42 PM
No, not mindless. Helpful. All random thoughts help me in this process.

Joe Calabrese
07-13-2007, 11:30 PM
Different states vary slightly, but there is a general guideline across the board regarding rates before and after adopting a special needs foster child.

My youngest of two foster brothers is special needs and severely handicapped. I mean very severe and will be for the rest of his life.

While we are foster parents, we get a higher rate than a non-special needs child, but less than double of a "non handicapped" child. So in essence I am getting less than the rate for three children although the work involved is much more than raising three healthy children. Much more. regular doctor visits, special equipment, not to mention the time involved in the day to day care (bathing and feeding takes four times longer than normal).

When our adoption is finalized, the non-special needs child loses everything except his medicaid and it will only be a supplement to whatever insurance we have, not in place of..

The special needs child will continue to have his medicaid (same rules as the other boy) and we will still receive a certain amount. This will be around 75% of his before adoption rate and that is only because he is severe-- you get less depending on the handicap. I know that here in NJ ADD types would get around %25.

When he turns 18, that is cut off and then Social Security Disability will pick up from there. Let me remind you that if you have a child by birth with special needs, Social Security would be covering it from day one-- so it's a wash.

I'll be up front. The money we get to raise two children (although paid at a rate of almost three) is not a lot. It is more than half less than I would make working full time at McDonalds. Much less... After we adopt, it will be a fraction of that.

When you take into account the cost of food, diapers, clothes (the clothing allowance DYFS gives is a joke and doesn't cover a pair of jeans per month), the wheel chair ramp we had to put in, the costs of extras you just don't think about, we end up putting money in ourselves and then some... And that is now while they are foster kids. If we do not plan accordingly now for the future, we will eat up our retirement savings and they will be for the worst as well as us.

I'm sorry you and your friend are no longer on terms, but you may not know all the facts. I certainly couldn't move to a lake house with what the state gives me. I could rent one for a week perhaps.

Your friend may have another reason for the move. Then again, she could be a leech and has found a way to make the state pay much more than needed. There is a red flag for the state. A person who wants five or more foster kids, is usually looking for a free ride. It takes that many before you start really seeing a profit, in most cases. Those people get scrutinized more frequently for any violations.

I am just going by my knowledge and understanding of NJ's rules. I could be wrong, but I do suspect the picture is not as black and white as you think.

PS. NJ is one of the higher rate states, next to California and Florida.

07-14-2007, 12:02 AM
I applaud you Joe. We need more like you. ;)

07-14-2007, 12:50 AM
You sound awesome. Hats off to you. It takes special people to take on special needs children.

I have met a lot of kids that parents say they have ADD & so on. My brother was a roudy one growing up. Seems to me in this day & age he would have been put on meds and taken away everything that to me, gave him color. I don't know that - that is really special needs but I know there are different levels to everything and maybe it is serious..... I have asked people not to gossip about her to me - I just get sad for kids I don't know.

I hesitated even posting that message because I didn't want to come off like every foster parent is out for money. That is not the case. I know they are deep in debt - she carried on often. The turn around is incredible. My ventinting was for the disappointment in her lack of making them family. If she is doing well now, great, but she seems to have "taken the money and ran" so to speak.

I have often thought of fostering myself and wonder if I am that strong.

Hats off to anyone reading this that does - you have huge hearts!!

Joe Calabrese
07-14-2007, 01:24 AM
vent away.

I just want to make sure that anyone who stumbles upon this thread has all the different info-- good and bad.

Sure. There are people who take the money and buy stuff for themselves while the kids wear soiled diapers for days at a time, and that's all people think when they think of foster parents.

I just want to remind everyone there are people like me and my wife, who couldn't have kids of our own and are happy to take these kids in-- not to be like our children, but to BE our children.

07-14-2007, 02:26 AM
I have a friend who is a foster mom, and honestly, I can say that the three girls living with her couldn't have found a better mother. She loves them unconditionally, despite all the emotional baggage they came along with. She gets a small stipend from the state but she's planning on adopting them soon, so that will end.

When I worked as a reporter, my very first story I did was about a couple that had not one or two but thirteen adopted children, in addition to their five biological kids. These 13 had all come to the parents as foster kids, and then been adopted. There were another two dozen kids who had been fostered by the family and then returned to their biological parents.

I asked the mom, "How do you find the space for all those kids?"

Her response: "As long as I have room in my heart, I'll make room in my home."

07-14-2007, 03:33 AM
I'm a licensed foster parent as well. We've only had one girl so far--for about 7 months. A great, and challenging, experience.

When Janet Fitch researched White Oleander (about a girl growing up in foster homes), she ran an ad in an LA paper asking people that went through foster care to call a number and "tell their story". She set up an answering service to just record the calls. From what I heard, she got tons.

I always thought that was a brilliant idea.

07-14-2007, 04:51 AM
I have no experience here, but I can give you hearsay from various foster/adoptive families. Might at least give you some ideas to search on.

* Control issues - refusing to eat a favorite food because they wanted to pick their own food. Mumbling, because when adults were trying to figure out what they were saying, they were in control. (To counter that one, the foster parents would answer with something like, "Oh, you said you want to [clean the litter box/scrub the floor/etc.]? Ok!" Said cheerfully/sincerely, not playing into the struggle for control, but providing incentive to avoid that particular tactic.) Change was threatening, even harmless change (different plates at dinner); strict routines were helpful.

* Time-in instead of time-out, because of abandonment issues: the misbehaving child had to stay close to an adult, not talking or playing, for whatever amount of time, until she was ready to behave as expected on her own. Spanking not an option for foster parents (a requirement of the system).

* Similarly, holding time as a response to tantrums/acting out, for the same reason. Letting a six-year-old adoptee "revisit" earlier stages of childhood (holding her in a cradle hold like a baby, e.g.) to work towards feeling like she belonged in her new home/situation...time-in and holding worked towards that, too.

* One I didn't expect was that kids with attachment issues might show it by being unusually outgoing/friendly/trusting towards strangers, since they haven't learned to distinguish between positive feelings they get from kind strangers and those from family/caregivers, or they're so desperate for affection they try to get it from anyone/anywhere.

* Being a couple of years behind maturity-wise...so, two-year-old behavior at age 3-4, etc; no sense that, e.g., lying is bad.

* A high pain tolerance due to untreated pain as a baby/toddler, causing difficulty in identifying medical issues (ear infections, etc.).

(Again, this is all hearsay; any inaccuracies here are mine!)

07-16-2007, 07:57 PM
Very helpful indeed.
This is such a deep subject. I have a responsibility to FEEL what I'm writing. Some of your responses actually brought tears to my lids. Thanks for sharing.

07-19-2007, 07:57 PM
I had a friend in high school who had been in foster care all of her life. Once she became a teenager, she was actually in demand. When I met her, she was in a house with two parents who had six kids of their own and the woman's mother living with them. Francine was taken in just so she could be their unpaid live-in babysitter, plus do laundry, clean house and cook. She was living a life like Cinderella. For some reason, the foster parents decided that having her visit my house was okay. So when she came, she washed her hair (at "home" she could only do that once a week), and practiced using make-up and nail polish. My mom bought clothes for her. And on her birthday, my parents through a small party for her, which was the first she ever had. My mom hugged her, and Francine cried. She said she had not been hugged for over ten years. How sad, huh?

One day, while we were still in school, her foster home burned to the ground. The "real" kids were already home from school, since they were much younger. The mother and grandmother were there too. They all died in the fire, because they couldn't get out of the second floor windows. Only the father was left.

I only saw Francine once after that, and she said she felt like a monster because she could not cry for her foster family.