How We Tell Stories About Kids in U.S. Foster Care

How to tell confidential stories?

Reports from the foster care’s front lines.

There are some things you need to know.

We have so many stories to tell you. Some describe the generational curse of child maltreatment or the trials of the U.S. child welfare system. Others introduce resilient children and teenagers, healing from tough histories. We could tell you about biological parents who struggle, often because of addiction or due to their own childhood experiences, but who hold tight to the assistance offered to them. These parents work hard to create a pathway to reunification and welcome their children home again. We want to tell stories of families hoping to adopt, but who set aside their desires to focus on the needs of children who need a temporary safe haven. We want to tell you about children who find permanency through adoption and of their new parents who love them dearly.

These accounts could educate and inspire. They could also embarrass and hurt. By sharing the details of a family’s success — their best day — we would likely have to share the particulars of a child’s worst day, and each moment leading up to that point.

When we prepare fostering and adopting families during our training classes, we task them with stewarding a child’s personal history. We caution about sharing too much on social media or even with the closest of families and friends. We practice responses to well-intentioned but awkward questions they can expect.

And then, later, we reach out to fostering families, asking if they might like to share their stories on a blog or social media post. Awkward.

The thing is, there are reasons why we love this work. There are moments of discouragement for sure, but there are also instances of extraordinary joy. For those considering foster care or adoption, we want you to know about both sides of this journey. You might want to invest in these services, and you should know how your donations work in transformative ways. Our challenge is to balance the need to inspire with our responsibility to protect.

When children are placed in foster care, their biological families retain parental rights. The state authorities maintain temporary legal guardianship. Fostering families welcome children into their homes and families and community, but defer to those legal relationships. Holt supports the legal process, parenting efforts and permanency plans for each child placed in our care. We demonstrate respect for the entire process by prioritizing privacy.

However, our work requires transparency, so we are going to begin telling you more about our foster care program, and the work done by the families on the front lines. We will change names. We will alter identifying details, in order to respect the privacy of our clients and families, in ways that don’t alter the truth or distract from the purpose for sharing the story. We’re listening to the voices of adoptees, fostered youth and fostering families to guide us as we illustrate without revealing more than we should. We hope you’ll meet us here, in this space.

Greg Eubanks is Holt’s Sr. Vice President for U.S. Foster Care & Adoption. He brings over 25 years of experience to his work with Holt, as well as his experience as an adoptive dad. Find out more information about Holt’s foster care program at holt4kids.org, call us at 206.922.1515, or email fostercare@holtinternational.org.

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