As we head into the summer months I think it's important that foster parents take a moment and check on the basic summer rules for their agency. Summer brings lots of fun opportunities for children and families, but there are some things to keep in mind before signing your foster child up for baseball or going swimming at the lake.
Summer Rules for Foster Care Agencies
Day care arrangements for working parents. Now that the kids are at home, have you ensured that you have someone to watch over the kids while you're at work? Check your agency's rules or the State's regulations on babysitters. Many states have a set number of hours that children can be left with those that are not licensed to babysit, or even age limits on babysitters. Many foster parents like to relay on day camps so that the kids can enjoy activities throughout the summer.
Wading pools. We know that there are rules for foster families with pools in their back yard, but there may also be regulations on the wading or baby pool. So, check with your agency before filling up that plastic pool.
Age of drivers. The summer may bring hectic schedules and it may be tempting to call on some help to transport your foster child to appointments. Make sure that proper background checks have been completed before allowing that to occur. Some States have a driving age, like 18, for those driving foster children.
Sleepovers. Summer is often the time of almost constant sleepovers with friends. I know it was one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Know what the rules are for sleepovers with your foster care agency and then decide if it is the right activity for your foster child. Some children may not do well with sleepovers.
High risk activities. Many foster care agencies or even within a State's regulations, state that foster children may not participate in 'high risk' activities without written approval from the birth parents. Make sure you know what this may mean for your foster home and that your child's birth parents have signed such an agreement. Many State's consider the following to be 'high risk' or activities that require a parent's signature.
- Swimming in a pool with or without a lifeguard,
- swimming in a lake, pond, river, ocean, with or without a lifeguard,
- water skiing,
- riding ATV's or dirt bikes,
- enrolling and participating in sports or classes such as self-defense or dance,
- horseback riding,
- participating in activities at the local YMCA,
- jumping on a trampoline, (which some State's don't even allow)
Summer Rules for Foster Families
Summer brings about opportunities for foster children to do things they may not have previously been exposed. But it also brings about the question of what foster families can do, due to rules and regulations, and what the foster children can do, due to lack of experience.
Really know what your foster children can and can't do. From experience I can tell you that most kids will tell you that they know how to safely ride a bike and swim. I can also tell you from experience that once you take them out for a quick review you will likely find that they have no idea how to ride a bike safely or swim.
- Biking Take the time to go for a quick bike ride with the child to make sure they know basic traffic rules and how to properly wear a safety helmet.
- Swimming Once you have the proper releases, take the child out for a quick swim. Can the child float, doggy paddle and keep their head above water? Consider signing them up for swimming classes. It's good for them not only for the skill, but socially.
- Basic safety. Summer means being outside a lot. Does your child know how to cross the street safely? Do they know what 'stranger danger' means? Do they know where the can play and how far they can roam in your neighborhood?
Take extra precautions. Many foster children get very excited about new opportunities and may struggle remembering basic safety rules of a situation. Take the regular precautions you would for any child and then take extra precautions with foster children. Maintain the mentality of keeping them in your line of sight at all times, especially if they are new to your foster home.
Be prepared to leave early. You may be ramped up to deal with convincing children to leave the pool, but don't be surprised if your foster child is ready to leave early. They may feel very out of their element, over stimulated, and wish to go home. If you have other children who are not ready to leave, already have a plan in place to call your spouse or a friend to come get your foster children, or sit with your other children so you can take them home.