Foster Parents | Understanding the Concept of Fair but Not Equal

Foster Parents | If you already have children in your home, welcoming in a foster child can be a daunting experience. There are many factors to consider how this new addition to the family dynamic will impact everyone in the house. You may have heard the term “fair but not equal” during your foster care education classes. This term is easy to gloss over before your new addition arrives but will come back to haunt you weeks or even months after a placement has occurred.

The idea of “fair but not equal” has to do with children’s relationships within the home. Those children that are biological, adopted, or long-term fostered in your home can experience a lot of feelings towards a new foster child. Squabbles and fights will occur no matter how sweet and innocent the children seem. Usually a few months after placement the disagreements will come to a head and it can get very overwhelming in your quest to be a foster parent (resource parent).

For example, let’s say that you have a new foster daughter who is in preschool as well as an older biological son. She may want to eat the exact same amount of food as her teenager brother. Explain to your daughter that preschool-aged kids don’t eat as much as a teenage boy. Explain that everyone gets their fair share of food depending on their body type. It won’t be an equal amount of food but it will be fair for all.

On the other hand, let’s say that your son is jealous of the amount of time your foster daughter requires. Explain to him that your daughter requires more attention due to her age and past circumstances. Reason with him that he is still very important in the family. Consider taking your son out to do something fun that a preschooler wouldn’t enjoy. Show him that the amount of time spent with her will not be equal to your time with him but that it will be fair.

Being able to explain this idea of “fair but not equal” is an important lesson for both of the children in the above example. In your journey be a foster parent (resource parent) you may feel more like a full-time police officer within your home than a parent. It can also be hard to keep up with the many varying attitudes and issues of the children within your home. Help to explain this idea of “fair but not equal” in age-appropriate ways to your children in order to succeed on your path to be a foster parent (resource parent).


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Author: Children First FFA

Published: September 29, 2018

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