“I told them about all of the foster homes I’ve lived in and now they are saying I don’t have a real family” says your foster child after being teased at school. It’s hard to see someone you care about being teased about the basic facts of his life. But there are ways you can help him.
It’s important for foster children to learn that they have a right to private information about themselves. They may have gotten used to disclosing their life story as a way to connect with others, especially with peers. This can backfire for them when this information later becomes a source for gossip or teasing.
It’s equally important that foster children learn that there’s nothing shameful about their histories and that there are right times to share their stories. As a foster parent you can help your foster child better understand when and how to share personal information.
It can be helpful to discuss openly with your foster child how he’ll answer questions about himself. It is good to do this when he’s entering a new school or other situation in which he might be asked personal questions.
Try raising the issue yourself with a question such as “I was wondering what you’d say if someone asked why you live with us?” or “What do you think you’ll say if your teacher asks you to tell the class something about yourself?” This provides your child with an opportunity to try out different answers. You can also help him by suggesting ways to express what he wants to say. At the same time, you can be clear about his right not to share information about himself when he doesn’t want to.
You can also help him learn to identify when it is appropriate for him to share his story with others. When he discloses new information about himself to you, try to respond by thanking him for sharing with you. Be clear about what information you hope he’ll share with his therapist or social worker. And, if there’s information which you know you must pass on to others, please let him know that you’ll be doing so and why.
There are things that you can do as a foster parent to help your foster child better handle these situations; your Plummer social worker can provide guidance. As your foster child learns to share personal information more selectively he will be less vulnerable and better able to handle the challenges he faces in school and in the community.