To Jaden Smith, on Misunderstanding Foster Care

Dear Jaden,

In the spirit of foster care awareness month, I cannot let you get away with this one. In your recent duet with your sister Willow, you say the following:

…”We don’t have no parents all the misfits are foster kids.”

REALLY?

Not only do you have parents, but two very wealthy and very well favored celebrity parents – Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith! Furthermore, your words are a reflection of the prevailing but false narrative that foster children are damaged kids, without hope.

Allow me to correct this inherently flawed belief.

A misfit, according to Dictionary.com is a person who is not suited or is unable to adjust to the circumstances of his or her particular situation.

While in foster care, neglectful and abusive foster parents forced me to move nine times, in less than a decade. Due to such frequent uprooting, I quickly developed the ability to adjust to many different environments, quite instinctively. This is a skill that many foster care alumni equally acquire, as a matter of our survival.

In case you didn’t know, some of your parent’s celebrity friends were once in foster care. Ice-T, Eddie Murphy, Cher, The Game, Rosie Perez and legends such as Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles are just several notable foster care alumni.

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Jaden Smith has a lot to learn about the foster care experience

While it is known that you have expressed interest in emancipating from your parents, there is quite a bit more to being in foster care than being an emancipated teen. It means that the cash-strapped, inattentive government is now responsible for you.

If you are 18 or older, it could mean that you are left to your own devices, without adequate resources. No movies or music royalties to draw upon. No trust fund or a litany of celebrity friends and family members to fall back on, in case of failure. Imagine that.

If you were a foster kid, you wouldn’t be begging for emancipation, you’d be begging for stability. If you were a foster kid, you may come from an abusive family, only to be abused further by the people who were supposed to make you feel loved. You may be forced to take medication that causes massive weight gain and heavy sedation.

And if you were in foster care, you’d probably be traveling with your belongings in cheap trash bags. How anyone can go on to be CEOs, inventors, Executive Directors or motivational speakers, in the midst of such deep adversity, is no small feat. Misfits? More like victors.

To be fair, I do not think that you meant any harm by your words. Unfortunately, that does not negate the fact that you passively propagated a negative and untrue stereotype of the foster care community. And it most certainly does not negate the fact that you falsely claimed to be a foster kid, when your truth, is anything but. Some of us are your fans…for now.

Fix this!

Sincerely,
Michael Place

Place is the founder and project leader of Mind The GaP.

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10 Comments

  1. Really, I mean REALY do you think before you say things! I’m 22 and currently in a job corps program and due to leave any day while you worry a bought your attire I’m stuck looking for an apartment and a job because of the time I spent in FOSTER CARE, I have no family no friends, and no car and because of CPS I can’t ‘get close to anyone do to the fact that I was taken forcefully from my mother and sister and treated like a freak!

  2. To be fair, he is a child. We’ve all said or done things as children that were wrong/skewed. I did appreciate the article, none the less. I want to be a foster parent some day and a damned good one at that.

    • I am grateful of the immediate reply to the Foster Care Issue. Which will help in dismissing some of the myths regarding this community. I also was a product of Foster Care with very bad memories of abuse, but good experiences as well. However my history, it produced a motivating tool, in which I used, like many others, to succeed. My story?, not much different from those who worked diligently to overcome adversities, emotional challenges and became positive role models for those who struggle to find their path and place in a evolving yet complex society.

  3. Dear Jaden Smith,
    Today I am the father to two boys who come from the Foster Care system that you seem to have a bit of misunderstanding on, please let me clarify.
    My 15 year old who we adopted at 13; bounced between 5 homes by the age of 10, before coming into our home.
    He started a coffee company at the age of 13, became a published author at 14, launched a $250,000 fund raiser to send foster kids to camp at the age of 15. He also speaks to foster parents and foster kids to encourage them to find Hope in God.
    My other son is still in the system who has been bouncing from home to home for 8 years. He is a wonderful young man who is starting his own cookie company.
    Jaden- Foster Kids are not “misfits” they are children who have had people who abandoned them. My prayer is that you use your position to make a positive lasting difference in Foster kids lives.
    In closing, I asked our son why he continues to work in his coffee business when it is so hard sometimes… He replied, “because people believe in me!” Maybe you should try believing in a Foster Kid.

  4. Michael,

    Without your brave letter, I might not have even noticed the subtle but damaging effects of even this one line when coming from the mouth of such a silver-spooned kid. Maybe some people think you need to “calm down lol,” but this is how awareness begins. It wasn’t that long ago that some people were saying “racism isn’t such a big deal calm down lol segregation isnt such a big deal lol.”

    When it comes to determining what is a big deal or not, I’d rather hear it from a former foster child who has his pulse on the issues facing foster children today (and has started an organization about it!). Thanks for this.

    -PF

  5. No matter how small of a quote words still hurt. And the “kid” knows what he meant by it.

  6. Calm down lol… you take a small quote and flip it into way more than it is…. who knows what the kid meant by it… but I’m 100% positive he doesn’t really mean that “he doesn’t have parents lol.”

    • Calm down???!!!! Really calm down?? How can he compare to a foster kid?? when he has basically the world at the tip of his fingers. Not only does he have two parents that love him but he has money and fame. How can you ever compare your life to the one of a foster kid. We didn’t go into the system by choice we were forced to. Now let’s not defend him. He knew clearly what he was saying he didn’t say it by accident. I really wish he could have the chance to experience what foster kids go through (ex. discrimination, depression, mental abuse, being put down everyday, etc.) which obviously would never happen because he has more than any foster kid would ever wish to have. Ultimately what a foster kid ever wants is to feel love and wanted. He will never be able to feel the opposite of this anyway. Lastly I wanna conclude with saying until you walk into my shoes you will understand my life. I’ve been through the foster care system I know how it is to live in a bad and depressing environment. So until you live a life like that don’t ever ask someone to calm down.

  7. What is surprising about this is that his mother is part of human trafficking charities and has spoken out about how foster girls often sell their bodies to survive. I hope this irresponsible quote gets more attention.

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