Back to school information is not just useful to foster parents during the Fall when most students are enrolling, but year round. This is because foster kids enter new foster homes at any time of the year and this often means enrolling in a new school.
Below find helpful articles and reminders to help foster kids during the school year.
There is a ton of paperwork involved in foster parenting, and school enrollment is no different. Be prepared with this suggested list of needed paperwork. (Remember each state, school district and foster care agency is different.)
Most people are genuinely concerned about foster kids, which can be nice. It turns into a problem when confidentiality is broken and a foster kid or birth parent's information or story turns into gossip at the lunch table. Share what is only necessary.
You may find yourself fostering a child that is part of a huge media story. You still can not tell the school this information, find more tips for handling the media coverage of high profile child abuse cases.
Ask foster kids what they prefer when they enter your home, visit the school and start the next day or jump right in. Try to help them feel as comfortable as possible which is tough, when everything in their life is chaotic and new!
Schedule Appointments After School When Possible
Foster kids have so many appointments: therapy, family therapy, family visitation, screenings, assessment. Then the usual yearly checks for good health that have often been neglected - physical, dental, and trip to the eye doctor.
Since foster kids typically have missed a lot of school due to neglect, try to schedule as many appointments as possible after school hours. You may have to advocate if the foster kids' birth parent visitation fall during the school day, adding stress to the child.
Many foster kids have not been given the opportunity to learn safety rules that most of us teach our children while still toddling around. Don't assume that a foster kid at age eight, knows what other eight-year-olds know regarding crossing a street, riding a bike, or getting in the car with a stranger. Take the time to teach them.
Also remember emotional safety and help foster kids come up with cover stories for school. Cover stories are quick answers they can give when asked why they are not with their birth family, without giving too much information.
No matter how old a foster kid is, most will not be able to stay home alone. This may because they are new to your home and your still getting to know and trust them or because they are emotionally much younger than their chronological years. Behavior or special needs that requires supervision for the safety of themselves and others may also be a reason to not leave a child home alone. Experienced foster parent tip: Don't go by age.
Find Opportunities to Mentor Birth Parents through School Involvement
There are a number of ways to mentor birth parents during the school year. This mentoring helps with family reunification.
- parent teacher meetings,
- school plays,
- sporting events,
- music programs - band, choir
- other special events
Whether birth parents can attend any of these events with you is left to the social worker. These events offer you the foster parent a great opportunity to mentor birth family by modeling how to act at conferences, ask questions, and advocate for a child. If birth parents are not allowed to attend meetings with you, then take steps to include them by sharing information as appropriate.
Know What You Can Sign as a Foster Parent for the School
Individual Education Plan(IEP) - Know if your foster kid has an Individual Education Plan(IEP) for special education, behavior, and/or speech? Foster parents or pre-adoptive parents can not sign an IEP, only the child's birth parent or an Education Advocate can sign IEP's or make any changes to the plan.
As foster parents you should be able to attend parent teacher meetings and conferences.
Since each state is different, ask if you as a foster parent can sign permission slips for field trips.
Can the child sign up to play sports? It's a good idea to get a release allowing you to sign for such activities.
Remember that being a foster parent means treating foster children as you would your very own children. Yes, foster parents are to help reunify families, but at the same time, we also want to help the children feel as comfortable as possible within our homes.
This listing, What I Hope Foster Parents Remember to Do this School Year, are basic things that most kids want from their parents. Here is a quick reminder for foster parents on what it means to be a great foster parent.