Just before Passover, my partner and I became certified foster parents in Pennsylvania. This means that we could get a call literally on any day, and have a new child in our family by the end of that day. We are incredibly excited (and more than a little scared), and because we have no idea when our family will be changing, we’ve been mentioning it in conversations so that our friends and community won’t be totally taken aback when one day we show up somewhere as a family of four, instead of three.
Across the board, people have been really supportive and excited for us, which is amazing. But one thing that has thrown me a bit is how often people ask me, “So, why did you decide to become foster parents?”
I understand that it’s a natural question. This isn’t the way most people build their families, and since it’s an opt-in situation, it makes sense that people want to know how we made the decision. But it still feels a little invasive to me every time. Because in our case the answer is a kind of muddy combination of always wanting to adopt, but not wanting to compete with people who can’t have a baby any other way, and not wanting to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the process. And once we started looking into fostering, and saw how much of a need there is for good foster families, it felt like something that we could and should do.
Somehow that doesn’t feel like a great answer to the question–it’s not really concise, and even though I think it totally makes sense to take your financial situation into account for any family planning you do, it’s kind of weird to tell people you didn’t feel comfortable paying for an adoption. And every time I answer I think, “If I was pregnant, and was telling people I was pregnant, no one would ask me why we decided to have a kid.” And I think about how lucky I am that our answer doesn’t start with years of infertility or miscarriages.
In the scheme of things, this is not really important–I’m not offended by the question, and honestly, I appreciate the opportunity to have a little soapbox for fostering (of course, it’s easy for me to talk about how great it is and how everyone should do it now, before we’ve actually had a child placed with us). But I do want to stick up for people who don’t feel comfortable explaining their family planning conversations with total strangers.
We’ve started talking to a lot of other families who came together in “non-traditional” ways: adoption, step-parenting, fostering, informal fostering, surrogacy, etc. It’s not unusual for people to mention how often their family is questioned in some way. Strangers asking them incredulously if this is their kid, or how they’re related–it’s part of being a family that doesn’t necessarily look related. Thinking back, I wonder if I’ve ever asked these questions myself. I probably have at some point. And you know what? It’s totally none of my business, and it doesn’t matter.
I’m really excited for my family to grow and when people ask me where our foster kid came from, I might just say, “The stork. Isn’t that where all babies come from?”