Why do we assume the worst?

I belong to several Foster Parent facebook groups and I’ve noticed a really disturbing tendency (sometimes in myself, as well) among foster parents. I don’t know if it’s because the system has made us cynical enough to default to suspicion and mistrust, or what exactly, but I really don’t like the tendency and I hope that y’all will work with me to change it.

A sample ‘conversation’ in one of my groups (names & details have been changed to protect me from people who didn’t give me permission to tell their story).
Teresa: Just need to vent. We had a team meeting for our teen girl and as usual she had to try to create drama. She starts going on about how we won’t buy her shoes. I explained that she has to EARN those shoes. Her therapist backed us up and the rest of the team followed the therapist’s lead. I just hate those meetings. I wish she would quit thinking she can play us against each other.

Now, my 1st thought was yay for the therapist for having some faith in the foster mom’s judgement. And that’s what I commented. Something along the lines of “sorry you had to deal with that, glad the team backed you up.”

Then I started reading the other comments and came across the following:

Magdelina: You are a horrible person. You are world’s worst foster parent and you should be ashamed of yourself. We are paid and responsible to provide basic needs to our foster children and shoes are a basic need. These kids deserve to be treated with respect and have their needs met without having to “earn” our love…. You need go out immediately and buy this child new shoes!! It is not my intention to offend, but you have to view things from her position you heartless, horrible person!

Okay, so that may not be exactly what Madelina wrote, but it is pretty much exactly what I read. And I went ballistic. I laid into her about not supporting other foster parents and jumping to the worst possible conclusion about people when they are just looking for support.

I ranted about how foster parents have so many obstacles and people who want to find fault, we have an obligation to be supportive and loving to each other. And right then I decided to write a blog post about the awful, horrible foster parents who are ugly and unsupportive to other foster parents. I was in HIGH DUNGEON.

Then I got a notification that Teresa had responded to the post. I went back to facebook, patting myself on the back, looking forward to the comment from Teresa thanking me for standing up for her.

Teresa: I didn’t take offense to what you said Magdelina. I appreciate you offering a different veiwpoint. She actually got new sneakers this month, she just wants really expensive ones and had tried telling me that her “team” would force me to buy her the ones she wanted. I should have been more clear in my original post. I see now how it seemed and I’ve edited it for clarity.

Wait. What?!? And then Teresa‘s husband (Nelson) chimed in:

Nelson: Magdelina, yes, thank you for your response. I really appreciate when someone can give constructive criticism. Yes, this girl has been with us for a while and can be very manipulative. My wife is a former shoe designer, so she makes sure that our FD has everything she NEEDS. She doesn’t always get everything she WANTS.

I went back and read Magdelina’s comment again. It still came across to me as very judgmental and critical, but I was clearly the only person to take it that way. After I thought about it, I decided that (^maybe^) I had been the one to assume the worst and jump to conclusions. And I probably owed Magdelina an apology. So I headed back to facebook and saw:

Magdelina: Teresa and Nelson – I think my original comment came off as much more critical than I intended. I thought about just deleting it, but I wanted to stand up and apologize. I did not mean to attack you in any way. I was trying to offer a different perspective and I should have waited until I had more information before commenting.

Well. I guess we’re all being very grown up about this, aren’t we? I went on to apologize myself.

Me: Magdelina, I owe you an apology. I reacted without starting from an assumption that you truly meant well & were genuinely trying to help. I think we ALL (obviously myself included) need a reminder to be gentle and not assume the worst.

I then asked for (and received) permission from Teresa, Nelson and Magdelina to use this little exercise in a post – to hopefully stand as a reminder for all us to be more gentle with each other.  * I had already written the bit about names and details being changed & I liked it, so I kept it. 🙂 *

I am going to leave you with the last thing Magdelina had to say in the conversation:
… We are all on the same team. I think sometimes we battle so much opposition in other ways (insurance, licensing, therapies, agencies, unknowing strangers and friends) that we are often left standing with our boxing gloves on…..




Hint: It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

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