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Recently, someone I know asked his foster child why he was in foster care. The carer didn't know why the child was in care and it was just in regular conversation.

This person I know's wife was all mad at him for asking that. Is it wrong to ask about a foster child's history?

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If the question was asked politely, formed out of genuine interest, and delivered without malice, then there's nothing wrong with that or any question. –  Brian White Oct 23 '12 at 12:18
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4 Answers 4

The first reason not to ask the child is because they probably don't know the real reason. From their point of view, the answer is most likely something like, "Because the policeman won't let me live with my mom anymore." They are often confused because they get different stories from their family than from the social worker. Kids don't always get immediately removed from a home, and their parents will tell them all sorts of lies between when the social services investigation starts and the kids get removed.

The second reason not to ask is that it won't help. It takes a long time to fully open up, and the child doesn't know what information will be useful anyway. For example, one of my former foster children freaked out once when an adult who was preparing lunch innocuously moved toward her with a kitchen knife in her hand. That's not something the social worker told us to look out for, and my foster daughter certainly didn't volunteer it. Things like that just come out as you get to know them over several months.

That's why the previous foster parents are the best source of information about a child's fears, triggers, and behavioral issues, far better than the social worker. Good social workers know that and will arrange a meeting. If they don't, you should ask. If you're the first foster parent, you just have to figure out as you go how to best help your kids.

That's really no different than parenting your biological children. It's not like the doctor who delivered our daughter told us she would be scared of elevators and what to do about it. Parenting of any kind is always a work in progress.

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This is assuming the child is very young. I've known plenty of adolescents that knew exactly why they were in care and due to plenty of time in therapy and living in a healthier environment had no problem at least discussing the most basic reasons for being a "foster" –  balanced mama Oct 24 '12 at 0:49
    
+1 for talking with the previous foster parents. –  Meg Coates Oct 24 '12 at 1:45
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I have two different sets of friends who are currently going through the foster parenting approval process via two different methods. Both groups emphasize that foster parents should not probe the child with questions about their history, but simply listen if the child talks about it on his/her own.

Most US states will happily give you the background of the child if you ask them, but unless the child brings it up, the foster parent(s) should NEVER initiate the conversation. The goal is to create a loving, comforting environment, and probing a child with questions about his/her life prior to coming to the foster parent is usually not very comforting.

Really, by the time the child gets situated in a foster home, they've all ready been interviewed and asked about their lives by the agency who removed them from their home, child psychologists, and possibly police. Do you really want to dredge all that up for them again?

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In my opinion, it is wrong to ask the child himself/herself until they reach proper age.

The child should always feel welcome, wanted and protected. Being moved to a foster family usually means his former family did not give him any of those, and the last thing he/she needs is to be reminded of that or even worse having to explain.

If the one adapting the child want information he should ask the social-service agency, not the child.

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+1 Ask social services, not the child. –  Dave Clarke Oct 23 '12 at 10:33
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I think it sounds a bit insensitive if it was asked that plainly, and I can imagine it would be a sore subject with most foster children, so I'm with the mother on this one.

That being said if I was going to be a foster parent I'd want to know what happened to the child as the more I know the better I'd be able to help. The foster agency should be the ones to supply that information though, not the child.

Children need to feel loved and cared for more than anything else. In truth, what happened before is not nearly as important as what happens in the future.

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