How To Respond To Well-Meaning People Who May Not Mean Well.

On the road of foster care and adoption, you and I will encounter many well-meaning people who may not be so well-meaning. How do you respond to people whose words or actions are highly offensive to you?


For years I have allowed others a free pass when they have overstepped into our adoptive and foster family. I’ve given grace and gritted my teeth while people say passive aggressive things. I have dismissed inappropriate comments as ignorant. I’ve even herded my children away and given them extra hugs, kisses and explanations for another’s rude behavior. In an effort not to embarrass the offender, I have allowed my children to feel shame and uncertainty about who they are and who we are as a family.

To the caseworker who offered to, “find someone else who can handle him”: I was only asking for help. I knew something was different from the start. I knew he needed something more than just a loving family. I hid our struggles for years afraid that you would take him. I later found out that he was exposed to drugs and alcohol before birth. I learned of the great trauma he suffered before I adopted him. Through countless hours of research our family was able to provide him with appropriate therapy to help with bonding. I was able to bring ideas to the school to aid in his IEP planning. I don’t need someone to “handle” him. He is my son.

I’m not sure you did “mean well.”

To the neighbor who asked, “What’s her story? Was she a crack baby?” I bit my tongue when I heard these words. I sucked in a fearful breath as I looked around to see how many of my children heard your hurtful words. I would never ask you that question about your daughter. I would never be inclined to think myself privy to your sad stories. I would never assume something so terrible about your circumstances. I let the comment slide because I pitied your ignorance. Maybe you really cared about us. Maybe your intention was not to spread my daughter’s story throughout our neighborhood.

I’m not sure you did “mean well.”

To the pediatrician who took my foster son out of my arms and exclaimed, “I can’t believe no one wants him”: I know I sat dumbfounded while you paraded him around the office. You may have taken my silence as the permission you never asked for. I wish you could walk a mile in my shoes. As a foster parent, I was fear-stricken that you were taking him because you suspected abuse. When I heard your words through the crack in the exam room door, I was fighting back tears. I wanted to scream, “I want him.” I whispered under my breath, “that’s not a ward of the state, that’s my son.” You may or may not have thought of us since we left that office. I hope that it has not escaped your attention that we never came back. We have since adopted that “unwanted” baby. He is the light of our life. He is so very much wanted.

I’m not sure you did “mean well.”

That’s it!

I call foul!

Foster children are not public property. Adopted children are no less mine because I share them with a birth family. Ignorance is no longer an excuse I will accept for poor behavior. I will never walk off with your baby. I will never inquire into your family’s darkest secrets. I will never offer to keep your child or find a more qualified family for him or her. I will not rescue your child from a consequence you’ve given. I will not imply that I am a better parent than you. I will not claim to know your child better than you. I will not buy your child gifts without your permission. I will not snuggle, hug or hold hands with your child the way you would. I will kindly ask that you refrain from doing these things with, for and in spite of my children as well. I will not ignore the hurt my children face because of these careless actions any longer.

If you really do mean well, get educated. Ask yourself, “is this a scenario I would want for my children?”

To the teacher who bought him a pair of gloves and a hat: I really do think you meant well. It was so sweet of you to think of him this way. However, I wish you would have checked first. After finding the new gloves in his backpack, I checked with the bus driver. He had “accidentally” left 3 pairs on the bus, all labeled with his name. He was playing you when he said we didn’t give him gloves. He lashed out at me as I listened while he told me the story. He told me that you are the one who really loves him. I turned my head so he wouldn’t see how much my welling tears stung my eyes. Before me, he lost his birth mom and two foster moms. He’s not sure I’m going to stick around so he’s testing you out as his next mom. I do know you meant well but I wish we would have talked first. He needs to know that I am the mom who will never leave. I’m a stick-around-kind-of-mom and I will love him despite the lying and the missing gloves.

Thank you for listening to us that day as we explained the story. Thank you for admitting that you neglected to call. Thank you for supporting us for the rest of the year as our son’s parents.

You really did mean well. We can’t thank you enough for that.

Question: Have you dealt with well-meaning people on your parenting journey? Share your story. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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