Foster care is often seen as a last resort, a place where vulnerable children go when they have nowhere else to turn. Children and youth in foster care may come from troubled backgrounds or have experienced trauma, but often inherit negative stereotypes and assumptions about their personalities, their abilities, and their futures that don't reflect reality. These misconceptions can make life more challenging for foster youth by creating barriers to things like housing, education, and employment. In this article, we will explore some of the negative associations and assumptions about foster youth and how we can break down these stereotypes.
Assumption #1: Foster youth are uncontrollable and have behavioral problems
Foster youth are often assumed to be uncontrollable and have behavioral problems. In reality, many foster youth are in care due to circumstances outside of their control, such as abuse, neglect, or parents' incarceration. These experiences often lead to trauma, anxiety, and sadness, which are unsurprisingly expressed in behavioral problems. However, these behavioral issues are not representative of all foster youth. Stereotypes should not cause us to assume that all youth in foster care are troublesome or problematic, but instead require our empathy, attention, and understanding.
Assumption #2: Foster youth are less intelligent and academically challenged
While foster youth may have experienced disruptions in their academic lives, this does not mean they are less capable or intelligent than their peers. Often due to instability, foster youth frequently experience academic challenges, such as inconsistent school placement, changing foster parents or caregivers, and fewer academic resources available. It, however, does not suggest they cannot acquire or develop intelligence as other children. With a little guidance, support, and access to resources, foster youth can demonstrate excellent academic achievement, decision-making and problem-solving skills, and goal setting capacities.
Assumption #3: Foster youth cannot thrive and succeed later in life
One of the most persistent assumptions about foster youth is that they cannot thrive or succeed later in life. This is, of course, untrue. Although growing up in foster care situations can be challenging, it does not doom the child's future. Many former foster youth have gone on to achieve success in their personal and professional lives, pursuing degrees in higher education, owning businesses, excelling in the arts or sports, and contributing to their communities' success. Breaking down these negative stereotypes and assumptions requires us to look beyond foster youth's immediate circumstances and recognize their potential.
Foster care is complicated, and it often represents a journey of triumph and despair. Negative associations and assumptions about foster youth can hinder them from acquiring desired resources, experiences, and opportunities, magnifying the challenges they already face. We must do more to combat these stereotypes and assumptions by educating others and breaking down barriers for foster youth by helping them access resources, support, and equal opportunities. By rejecting harmful stereotypes, we give foster youth a chance to thrive and prosper, giving them a healthier and supportive environment to grow and thrive.