Vol. 11, No. 1 November 2006
Step Into My Shoes
In her poem “Have You Ever” Shebra, a 16-year-old in foster care in North Carolina, asks:
Have you ever lived my life?
These questions are natural for someone who is experiencing the stigma and labeling that sometimes come with being in foster care.
They’re also relevant for the rest of us. All of us, at one time or another, have felt the pain of being unfairly judged.
Many of us also know from experience the bad things that can happen when decisions are made and actions taken based on false assumptions about another person’s character, skills, or motivations.
In the face of other people’s hasty conclusions we all want the things Shebra longs for: Respect. Compassion. Understanding. Acceptance. Justice.
In the child welfare system, negative assumptions about others can hurt collaboration, undermine healing and partnership, and interfere with efforts to act in the child’s best interests.
The best protection against these negative outcomes is, in the words of Steven Covey, to “seek first to understand”—to listen with an open heart, to delay judgment as long as possible, and to remain open to new information.
Admittedly, this can be hard to do in the stressful world of child welfare, but we believe that it almost always pays off in the end—especially for the kids.
To promote understanding and empathy among those who work in the child welfare system, this issue of Fostering Perspectives gives you an opportunity to “step into the shoes” of a birth mother, the birth children of foster parents, a former foster child turned adoptive mother and child advocate, and many others.
Copyright © 2006 Jordan Institute for Families