Back to school is a busy time of year for families and it can be difficult to get back into the rhythm of a constantly moving routine. Children in foster care often must overcome the additional barriers of entering a new school while living in an unfamiliar home, school and community. This can cause anxiety, sadness and fear, often creating extra trauma and chaos that needs to be navigated.
One tool that can be helpful is to create a quiet space for the child to enjoy. A designated area set aside in the home allows a child space to refresh mind and body, which is especially important for children who have sensory needs, mental health needs or no longer nap. A quiet space provides a break from stimulation and teaches the child a new coping mechanism in managing stress and other big feelings.
Below are some ideas for creating this valuable tool. If you are supporting a foster family through the back-to-school season, consider planning and establishing areas in both of your homes!
Not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something. The most important “something” you can do as a support person, and a sure way to stay in rhythm with the Father’s call on your own heart, is to keep the first things first and PRAY.
Your foster or adoptive family needs to be blanketed in constant prayer. They need prayer warriors, lifting them up day and night, petitioning our Father in Heaven for known and unknown needs.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. – Ephesians 6:18
Below are four ideas to help you keep the first things first and PRAY for your family:
Children entering foster care frequently have questions about why they're in foster care, what foster care is and what it means to live in foster care. The book, Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care, by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright, helps answer those questions.
Maybe Days is recommended for children up to age 12 and can be adjusted to be developmentally and situationally appropriate. The book encourages connection and gives children permission to talk about confusing events they are experiencing and the questions they have. Consider reading this book during the day (instead of before bed) and then plan something fun to do with the child afterward to build trust and allow time for conversations around the thoughts and feelings the child may have after reading the story.
Four reasons this book is recommended (from a Youtube review by The Early Childhood Therapist):
Unique Ways to Bless Foster Families
Sometimes it can be hard to identify ways to bless a foster family as they navigate their journey through foster care. From the outside looking in, it may be difficult to understand the day-to-day needs or to know what would be helpful. In addition to re-visiting your Support Team Roster, below are some unique suggestions to show appreciation and support. Pick an idea or resource you can offer and follow through. When support team members continue checking in and offering help, it provides parents with the relief and energy they need to keep providing high quality care to children.
Host a virtual card drive: Is your family encouraged by words of affirmation? Consider rallying support team members to e-mail, text or mail encouraging notes to your family. Remind your family that they are doing good work and are supported by their network.
Give a gas card: Foster families transport children to many weekly appointments, some a significant distance from home. A gas card can go a long way in helping ease the expense of travel.
One of Jon’s favorite things about being a foster dad is when siblings Ju-Ju, 2 and Mouse, 1 first wake up in the morning and come to him, smiling, with arms raised high, saying, “Up, up!”
Ju-Ju and Mouse haven’t always trusted Jon, or any adult, enough to ask this question. It took several months of patience and play time on the floor before either child was comfortable enough to talk or receive touch. Both children entered foster care because of significant trauma before Jon and his wife Aydrian welcomed the young siblings into their home.
Jon and Aydrian, both first responders, have a blended family with five children, ages 8 to 30 years. They are looking forward to welcoming their first grandchild in August. For the couple’s upcoming eleventh anniversary, they are planning to hike the Manitou Incline and enjoy breakfast together. With eight-year-old daughter, Care Bear, Ju-Ju and Mouse wanting his attention after work, Jon gets up early each morning to train for a Half Iron Man in September.
When you think of summer break, do you think of hot days enjoying ice cream, water fun and camping? The summer can offer a break from the school routine, laid back transitions and lots of outdoor fun to be had. Sometimes, summer break doesn't feel like a break for foster families.The summer dynamics in a foster home can be loaded with emotions, disregulated children, too much or not enough to do. Planning some DIY summertime fun is a great way YOU can take something off your foster families to do list this summer! Check out our Bucket List of 8 DIY Summer Kits. Choose one to make yourself or rally the family’s support team to make one each week!
DIY Summer Kit Bucket List
Shauna & Scott Spoede's hearts for kids can be seen in every area of their lives. Scott is an assistant principal at a local elementary school, and Shauna taught middle school science before staying home to raise their biological children. For years the two had discussed becoming foster parents, and whether or not the time was right to step into the lives of hurting children and families while raising a young family of their own. Their foster care journey started as a kinship placement, when Scott called from school and said, “I have this boy here, can I bring him home?”. A child asked for a safe place to stay, and the Spoede’s said yes to being that place, that family for him. They’ve done the same for the eight children they’ve fostered since.
Their experience as a kinship placement for a student at school led them to walk alongside another family that was struggling. “God laid this family on our hearts and God said to me, ‘you’ve got to pop the bubble, Shauna.’ You can live your perfect life, without any hard things, OR you can step down into it like God did. “I just knew it was time. He stepped down into the world and he was calling us to step into the lives of this family. I heard him say: We need a family transformed and they need help”.
Supporting your foster, kinship or adoptive family through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be more valuable to them then you might realize. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can feel like heavy lifting for these parents, and here’s why: Children and youth experiencing foster care and/or adoption had and were separated from their first moms and dads. That’s traumatic.
Holidays that highlight this can trigger feelings of loss, grief, self-doubt, insecurity, anger, resentment, fear, and loneliness, Those feelings expressed as negative behaviors are challenging for parents to deal with, especially when the expectations for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are centered on celebrating, not grieving. Your family may be experiencing angry outbursts and defiance instead of, or along with breakfast-in-bed and hand-made gifts.
Sometimes foster parents are experiencing “empty arms” on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. After caring for a child for weeks, months, sometimes even years, that child has successfully reunified with biological parents. Even as your family celebrates reunification, missing that little smile or big laugh can be heart-wrenching.
Here’s a few ways you can support your family before, during, and after these holidays:
We are not your typical foster family. We stumbled upon something I now believe God was calling us to the entire time.
In May of 2020, our dear friend and former nanny called needing a safe home for herself and her 4-month-old grandson as his home wasn't an option. Hubs and I have three children and were heading out on a long camping weekend, but our friend was in a hard place having accepted immediate custody of her grandchild. We consider our friend and her daughters as family so we offered our home and time to troubleshoot the challenges when we returned from the mountains. What started as a small offer quickly became an all-in undertaking. We were our friend’s safest option and reluctantly agreed to share our home until a longer-term solution was reached so she and her grandchild could stay with people they knew. We became a kinship foster home.
Aah! April! It teases us with sunshine and drenches us in precipitation (at least in a good year). We love the hope that rain and snow bring: the green, the new growth, the flowing rivers and filled-up reservoirs, all waiting for us on the other side of the puddles and drifts. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace hope in the middle of a storm.
At times, that's what being a foster or adoptive family is like. There's so much hope for growth and restoration. Simultaneously there’s trauma behaviors, uncertainty, and feelings of isolation. During a season of grief and loss, a Project 1.27 kinship parent recently shared that she didn’t need encouragement, she just needed to know people were sitting with her. This is where YOU come in as “her” support team. You don’t need all the answers, sometimes the family you're supporting just wants someone to pull up a chair and sit.