Going back to school is exciting for most kids. New teachers, new friends, new clothes. But for children in foster care, starting a new school with a different family, another academic year can feel unfamiliar and daunting.
In an effort to help foster parents who might be struggling to navigate these challenges with the children in their care, we consulted the experts—school teachers who serve as Buckner foster and adoptive parents—on how to prepare children in foster care for school. Here’s what they had to say:
Tonya Davis: As a parent, if there is a school activity and you can be there, then please be there. One of my littles once said, "Mrs. Tonya, you were the only mom that wasn't there." I'm sure this wasn't true, but that was how he felt. After that, if I could attend, I did.
From a teacher standpoint, it helps to simply know when a child is in foster care. We don't have to know all the details, but for example, we would like to know how the child addresses the foster parent (do they call them Mom, Dad, Mr., Mrs., etc.?). It helps cut down some of the awkwardness for the child. Also, make the teacher aware of any visitation days. Sometimes the child has a hard time readjusting after a visit, and simply knowing helps us be more understanding. If the biological parent needs to be kept in the loop, let us know that, too. They can sign up for tools like Remind 101, or we can print double copies of report cards—anything to help make the child successful.
Candace Barefoot: It is best to physically meet the teacher as soon as you can, take a tour of the school with as few people around as possible and even take pictures of the classroom, his or her seat or locker. That’s just not always plausible, so check out the website first. Once you feel comfortable with the site, sit down with your kiddo. Show them the principal, the assistant principal, all of the specials teachers, his or her teacher, everything and anything you can about the school. Most districts even require a short bio of each teacher on the website so your kid can learn a little bit about the teacher before they meet. Return to the website as much as you and/or your child feel necessary to alleviate any anxiety. You can even print off the pictures and biographies for him or her to read whenever he or she is feeling stressed out about it. I can’t even begin to tell you how often my kids have actually pulled their homemade books out and looked it over.
Roni Mills: Drive to the school with kids, both foster and biological, before school starts. This is two-fold. One, it helps the kiddos see where they will go, and the first day of school won't be as shocking. And two, our biological children are older and love school, so they have fun stories and are very excited to tell of their experiences. So the children in foster care see how happy our biological kids were about their time at that school.
To learn more about how you can become a foster parent or support a child in foster care in your community, contact Buckner Foster Care and Adoption today.