What My 3 Year Old Says about Fostering

I had a friend ask me once what my son thought about having a foster brother. We had accepted our first placement of a rambunctious, happy-go-lucky one year old.  Sure we’d had our share of visitors, and I brought my son along every summer to nanny for a family of five, but we’d never had a guest stay in our home for this length of time.

“Does he ask questions about it?”  I thought about it for a moment, thinking back through all the groundwork we’d laid with him: discussing the reason why we were remodeling our third bedroom, trying to think of ways to explain to a toddler why some kids weren’t with their parents, and at night, praying with him that we’d be able to love on whomever God would send our way.

Surprisingly, he didn’t ask questions.  He accepted it for what it was.  He didn’t need the backstory or a time frame on how long his foster brother would stay with us.  He was content with the fact baby was with us for now.

I asked him about his foster brother once, and here’s what my 3 year old had to say:

“Do you you like having Baby stay with us?”

Yes.  Can he please, please, please stay here?”

“What do you like best about having another kid in the house?”

Reading and playing! But he just walks away from me when I’m playing.  He’s kinda just slow.”  [This comment was indicative of being an only child.  Up until this point, he wasn’t used to having friends walk away in the middle of an activity.  It demonstrated one of the ways foster care gave him experience being a brother.]

“When Baby leaves would you like to have another baby come stay with us?”

“Yes, we could have a girl, a little baby.  I just want to have a little baby come stay with us.  Maybe we could pick that baby up on Thursday.  We could pick her up on Thursday if we call her dad and mom, then she could stay here.  If you call that baby that I’m talking about can you please, please call the mom and dad? And tell them thank you for coming?  And when they say you’re welcome, I’ll say you’re welcome too. 

“Why is Baby here with us?”

“Because he likes me.”

Our conversation fizzled out, but a while later he came up to me to share a little bit more of what he was thinking and feeling.

“Baby doesn’t stay here all the time, but if he doesn’t, I’ll miss him very much.  I very miss him if I don’t have him…  I might not cry.  It’s okay to cry, but I don’t need to.  I’m worried that he’s going soon, but it’s okay.”


In another post, I shared how fostering has affected my son, and this conversation was a continuation of that.  I worried fostering would introduce difficult things that I had worked so hard to protect him from, but it didn’t have the effect I feared.  My son saw the positives.  He didn’t see the brokenness; he believed his foster brother was here because he loved us too.  He wasn’t consumed with sorrow over inevitable reunification; he was processing tough emotions and overcoming.  Once again, I could breathe in a sigh of relief that I hadn’t ruined my son and that childlike faith of his understood and accepted this in ways I clearly underestimated.



  One thought on “What My 3 Year Old Says about Fostering

  1. August 13, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I think you are on to something with the insight that children see positives and wonder in their experience. As a youth, I read, “Tom Sayer,” as an exciting adventure story. I reread the same book as an adult and saw traumatic themes, an alcoholic abusive father, neglect, trauma, racism and discrimination. It was like reading a different book. I remind adults of this when they separate or divorce. Kids just see their missing parent not all of the hurt, duplicity and dysfunction their parents may have witnessed.

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