As a foster child, here’s what I’d like my foster parent to know.
Everything is new to me. When I first join your family, I need to learn so many new things. What time is breakfast and who prepares it? When can I watch TV? How will I get to school and who’ll make sure I have the supplies I need to make a poster for social studies? The list goes on and on.
Things can feel overwhelming for me. Make a point of letting me know how things work in your house. Don’t assume I will figure out your routine on my own. It helps if you tell me that all questions are welcome and that you know it’s hard to get used to a new home.
I’m always watching. I’ve learned to watch the people around me very carefully. Even when I seem “tuned out,” I’m taking in a lot. I need to make sure I’m safe. Remember, I may’ve been hurt by people who were supposed to protect me. The good news is that I see when you’re taking good care of me. And, that makes me feel safer.
Routine is incredibly important for me. Even when I gripe about it, I crave routine. I need to know when things happen and what’s expected of me. Knowing what my day will be like helps me feel more secure. If there’s going to be a change in routine (i.e. this weekend we’re going camping), please let me know in advance. Remember to tell me what the change will mean for me. Even “good” changes in routine can be stressful for me.
My birth family is important to me. I think about them a lot and wonder if they’re OK. I wonder if my mom is alright that I’m with you. Does my dad know where I am? Where are my brothers and sisters? Do they miss me? It helps when you ask about them. Everything you do to help me stay in contact with my birth family makes life better for me.
It’s important that I have some choices. I’ve had little control over what’s happened to me, so it’s nice to be given some choices about things that are important to me. Even little things. Let me help decide what we’re having for dinner. Before I go to bed, let me pick out my outfit for school the next day. Give me guidance when I need it, but show that you trust me to make good decisions.
My time with you really matters. I’m learning so much from you. Even though you won’t be my “forever” family, you’re showing me how to live in a safe, loving home. The skills I learn here…from how to toast an English muffin, to how to play a wicked game of Monopoly, or even how to make up with someone after an argument…I’ll take with me. But mostly, I’ll have memories of this time when I was loved by this family. And that’s something that’ll always be a good part of my life.
Written by Diane Kindler