When Foster Parents Get Children on Short Notice

Foster parents don’t always have time to get to know a child who is coming to live with them. In fact, it is sometimes only a few hours between when a child is removed from their home to when they arrive at the home of a foster family. So how can you help your foster child settle in?

Start by explaining your routines so the child gets a sense of how your family operates. Remember that every family has different ways of organizing their lives. Some families have mealtime routines which involve even young children in food preparation, setting the table and cleanup. In other families children are called to the table when it is time to eat and are not expected to do much more than clear their plate after eating. Both routines are perfectly normal and work well for most families. For a foster child in a new home your “normal” routine may be totally different from anything he or she has known in his previous home.

children-403582_1280Explain bit by bit how things work in your home and give him a reminder before he is expected to participate in a family routine. For example, saying that there will be fifteen more minutes before the television is turned off lets him know what to expect and protects him from feeling caught off guard. He still may not want the television turned off but he will have been given a chance to prepare for it.

Moving into a new environment where everything is unfamiliar can be overwhelming for anyone. Patiently helping your foster child “learn the ropes” of your home can make a big difference.

It’s also helpful to ask him how he is used to doing things. Especially with older children and teens it may be important to be flexible whenever possible about smaller things. Getting homework done is a non-negotiable; where it gets done may be something you can flex on.

At Plummer we appreciate how hard our foster families work to welcome new children into their homes. Explaining your family’s routines and demonstrating how things work in your home will help your new foster child feel comfortable and accepted. And that’s good for everyone.

Foster Youth and Grief

boy 2A child in the foster care system gets angry, acts out, or has a temper tantrum. They are labeled as “difficult” or “oppositional.”

But could these behaviors be an expected symptom of their grief?

Shenandoah Chefalo writes about this very topic in Youth Today. She convincingly argues that while we often allow for outbursts of a grieving person after the death of a loved one, we are not as likely to have that same understanding for a tough youth in foster care that may have lost all they have known and is familiar to them.

She reminds us that “These children have suffered a tremendous loss — a deep sadness and grief that often goes unrecognized and leads to deeper traumas.” It encourages those who care for youth in the system to remember that one of the most important roles of foster parents involves helping youth identify and cope with their grief.

To read more of Chefalo’s article, click here.