“Self-Harming is Normal,” and Other Lies the Foster Care System Told Me

When we became foster parents, we were told it was going to be hard. There would be tears, trauma, broken families, medical issues we were unfamiliar with, schedule changes, appointments, and emotional challenges. We resolved ourselves to deal with each challenge as it came along. We would be fine as long as we loved these kids, tried hard, and kept Jesus as the foundation for our lives. We both grew up through a lot of difficulties, so we felt prepared in some ways to face what was to come. We were also required to take classes that would teach us what we needed to know, or so we thought.

When we had our last class, our last home study, were fingerprinted, background checked, interviewed, changed our entire house around, and put ourselves on the open bed list, we were pumped and ready to go. We were prepared for hard times, but we were not prepared for all the lies we would have to bear with from every side of the “team” we dealt with. Here are just a few of the lies the foster system told me:

1.When Placing a Foster Child in Your Home, a Good Match is a Priority

A good match is not anyone’s concern. The person calling you is looking for a home with an open bed in it. Whether they think a child is going to do well in your home has nothing to do with whether they will place that child with you. They will give you information like, “We have a boy, age 5 who needs placement. He has no known behaviors. Do you want to take him?” How can they (or I) decide whether a child is a good fit in our home based off of that? You can’t. You say, “Yes,” or you say, “No,” but ultimately no one knows much of anything. I was told a good amount of lies based around this as well. For instance, we said we would take a younger child in, so they lied to us about the age of the girl who was coming. After all, no one sees a child at the front door and turns them away, right?

2.Self-Harming is Totally Normal

I was told by our case worker that self-harming (cutting) is totally normal; she actually told me that. “Everyone is doing it.” I don’t know if they spout these things to make people feel like they’re not alone, but it’s not helpful. Everyone is not doing it; it’s not healthy, and no one is getting the help they need if we brush it under the rug. She was telling me, a former self-injurer, that it was fine, a phase. It’s not a phase; it’s a coping mechanism for someone who cannot cope in a healthy way. It made me so angry, and still does when I think about it. It’s not about what are normal behaviors for someone who has lived through trauma. Children need individual care to get back to normal behaviors for a child.

3. The Team is Looking Out for Your Family

There is no team. There are a lot of people who have to see each other once a month, sometimes more often. We would communicate via email, or phone conference, or face-to-face at meetings, but we were not always working toward the same goals. We were not supporting one another. The team is a myth. When it came down to it, I was told by CPS, “I understand you’re pregnant and you have other kids you have to take care of, but they only ones I care about are these kids (foster kids).” If you want someone to stand up for your family, you had better do it yourself, or you will get trampled and left for dead.

I would never give up being foster parents for the time we were able. I wish we could do more now. I can’t fathom becoming part of that horrible cycle again, though. It was toxic for my family, which is what you are trying to bring these kids out of. You think it will be normal, that they can live in a good home until they can return home. There is no normal when you are a part of the foster care system, no matter how hard you try. Then, there were the people who insisted on lying to my face. That is one thing I cannot tolerate, and ultimately what caused us to close our license. I hope that one day the atmosphere will change and we can come back; there are so many children who desperately need a family. But first, the lies have to stop.


2 thoughts on ““Self-Harming is Normal,” and Other Lies the Foster Care System Told Me

  1. Amanda says:

    Interesting to hear truth spoken through experience. The whole system is a mess. The difference you made to those you cared for was something though. I hope you know that. You might never know the amount of impact you really had.


    • jthornburger says:

      I do hope that we were able to do some good while we were foster parents. I believe that God led us to it, and I believe that He can use us to do great things. Thank you for the kind words. 🙂


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