Talking about Sex with Foster Kids

Some foster parents shy away from talking about sex with their foster kids.  It’s hard to have a talk with our bio kids, let alone someone else’s!  But it’s the responsible thing for foster parents to do.  Did you know that girls in foster care are three times more likely to have a baby as teenagers than kids who were never in foster care* ( about 1 foster girl in 3 )?  Even though Joyful is only 10, we’re having birds and bees conversations to help her not become a mom too soon.  Some of the conversations are pretty funny.

At breakfast this morning, I mentioned that my grandpa lived on a farm and raised dairy cows.  As a little girl, I loved to drink the warm milk.  Here’s how our conversation turned into a sex talk.

“What do you call the thing that milk comes from?” Joyful asked.

“Udders,” I responded with a smile.  Joyful giggled.

“They look like a body part,” she said, hiding her face behind her hands.  “Can humans make milk?”

“Udders are the cow’s equivalent of breasts.  They are not penises,” my husband noted, knowing exactly what body part a young girl might think an udder looks like.

“When a mom has a baby, her breasts make milk,” I explained.

“How does she get the milk to come out?” Joyful asked, intrigued.

“The baby sucks and the milk comes out,” I said.

“But doesn’t that mean there are holes in her breasts?  Why doesn’t the milk just fall out?” Joyful wondered.

“There are very tiny holes and generally the milk stays in unless the baby is trying to get the milk out by sucking,” I said.

“What if the mom doesn’t want the baby?  What if a teenager walks by a baby – will her breasts make milk?” Joyful asked.  Wow!  She really doesn’t understand human anatomy and, sadly, understands human nature all too well – that sometimes moms don’t want their children.

“If a baby isn’t with the mom and doesn’t drink the mom’s milk, the milk goes away.  You actually have to give birth to the baby for your breasts to make milk (yes, I know technically this isn’t true, but it’s 98% true).  Just being by a baby won’t cause your breasts to make milk, so it’s safe for a teenager to walk by a baby,” I explain, trying to keep the answer simple.

“Are you sure that teenagers can’t get milk just by being by babies?” Joyful asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I reassured her.

This talk about cows and breastfeeding may seem  like a cute kids story, but it’s so much more than that.  Joyful knows she can ask me about anything.  Hopefully, she’s learning that it’s a good idea to ask trusted adults for information when she becomes a teenager.  We talk about the mechanics, AND about values.

At lunch, 8-year-old Watchful asked why people want to get married.  So we talked about how wonderful it can be to be in a relationship when two people really care about each other.  Sassy, of course, needed to show off her teenage knowledge and said men and women get married to have babies.  What a perfect opportunity for hubby and I to tell the kids that it’s a good idea to wait until you’re married to have babies.

Why Foster Kids are Likely to Become Teen Parents
So why are kids who have been in foster care more likely to have babies when they’re teenagers?  Just look at the risk factors* for the likelihood that any child will become a teen mom.

  • Teen has experienced many changes in where they live or in family structure
  • Teen has experienced abuse or neglect as a child
  • Teen is child of a single parent
  • Teen’s parent has a low level of education
  • Teen’s parent has a low income
  • Teen struggles academically
  • Teen struggles with fighting, doing drugs, or drinking alcohol

It doesn’t take a genius to realize teens in foster care are much more likely to have these risk factors for teen pregnancy than their peers.  So, if you’re a foster parent with a school-aged child or teenager in your home, perhaps now is a good time to talk about making good choices.  Your talk today could help them make good decisions in the future.

*Statistics taken from “Teen Parents in Foster Care: Risk Factors and Outcomes for Teens and Their Children” by Child Trends.

Invisible Pregnancy

We will have a foster kid or two soon.  We need to prepare a bedroom, think about leave from work, and think about child care and schooling.  I’m reading tons of parenting books.  Considering buying a rocking chair.  Buying special books to read.  So, I’ve written before about how similar this is to “expecting” with a pregnancy.

But it’s a bit lonely.  Here I am with mommy-hood on the brain, but no one is patting my tummy, giving me their seat on the bus, offering to carry heavy things for me.  There’s no baby shower.  No doctor visits.

It’s like an invisible pregnancy.  I’m “due” soon, yet no one can see a bulging baby bump.

I wish family and friends realized that bringing a child into your family is a big deal, no matter if that child stays with you for a month or for life.  I will still give my heart to any foster kid that walks through my front door.  I will be their advocate in school, at the doctor’s office, and with the county.  I will still tuck them in at night, make them breakfast, and  cheer them on at basketball or cheerleading.  I will put band aids on their owies, remind them to mind their manners, and be the shoulder they cry on when things don’t go their way.

So, yes, I am a mommy-to-be, even if my “pregnancy” is invisible.

Are you an “expectant” foster parent and feel lonely, too?  Have you ever considered giving “expectant” foster parents that special love and attention that pregnant moms receive?  Any suggestions for helping others realize that I want them to celebrate this with us?