Are you ready to send your foster or adopted children back to school? What about any new child(ren) that have been placed in your home either because of adoption or foster care? Here is a handy checklist to help you send them back to school with less stress.
Healthy kids perform better in school.
- Check your child's medical card, with foster care or a state adoption you should have received one, for the date of your child's last physical. You will also need to make appointments for your foster child's dental and eye appointments. Keep these appointments current.
Make sure you have the child's immunization records and that they are up to date. You will need the immunization records in order to enroll any child in school in the United States.
Upon enrollment you will find several forms to fill out. Go prepared and make sure you have everything on this checklist for foster and adoptive children.
3. Know the Child's Education Plan
Does the child have an Individual Education Plan(IEP) for special education, behavior, and/or speech classes? 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. Things to keep in mind:
As foster parents you should be able to attend parent teacher meetings and conferences, but think first before you share too much information.
Since each state is different, ask if you as a foster parent can you 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.
Can the birth parents attend conferences with you? This would be a great way to mentor a 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.
4. Practice Address and Phone Numbers
Children new to your home need to know this for safety and for school. Make sure they know your full name, how to spell it correctly, and where you work.
- Practice writing the address and phone number.
- Have an index card in the child's backpack with the needed information.
5. Practice the Route to School or to the Bus Stop
Show the child the route they are to take and make sure it is a safe route. Walk or bike it with them. Practice skills such as:
- Crossing the street
- Yielding to traffic
- Stopping at stop signs
- Locking up bikes
- Knowing the correct bus number
Do not assume that your child knows these things. Practice, even if the child says they know. We have discovered that most of the children that tell us that they know how to ride a bike safely, in reality, do not. Always ask them to demonstrate their skills. Try making it a game instead of a test. Go on a family bike ride. See how they handle traffic. Don’t forget helmets!
6. Attend Open House or Tour School Building
You and your child will be able to meet the teachers and tour the school buildings at open houses. If school is already in session ask for a tour and to visit the child’s room when you enroll. I prefer to enroll a new child on one day, and have them begin the next day.
7. Discuss Safe Rides
Make sure the child knows who they can get into a car with and who they can not.
Remember neighbors, social workers (for foster children or pre-adoptive children), and close relatives.
Teach them to look for ID/name tags on people claiming to be social workers.
Discuss who not to catch a ride from. Include strangers and anyone you’d rather not have your child be alone with – we all have these people in our neighborhoods.
It may be difficult but you will also need to discuss getting into cars with birth parents. If the children have supervised visitation or no visitation, the children should not get into a car with birth family. Talk with the social workers about the plan and the best way to discuss this with the children.
8. Practice Opening Lockers
This is such an embarrassing thing for kids, being late to class or to gym because they can't open their lockers. Use the time you have at enrollment or at an open house to practice. Get a lock at home and practice.
9. Be Involved with the Child’s Education and with the School
This is great for foster parents too. Volunteer to be a room parent and help plan holiday parties for the child’s class. If you don’t have time to attend school parties, bake cookies or send a bag of candy. Go on field trips or volunteer to come in and read to the kids. Most kids love to see their parents or care givers being involved in their activities. This school year try to be involved in something at your foster child's school.
10. Create a Cover Story
A cover story is something that the kids can tell others about why they are now in your home. This may also be needed for kids who are newly adopted. Children adopted internationally may be teased for an ethnic name, different appearance, or an accent. Foster children adopted over a summer may have to deal with a new last name and answering questions about why they could not go back home to birth parents. For more information on cover stories read, Teaching Foster/Adoptive Children How to Answer Questions.