Summer is here! Here’s how to have fun with your foster children!

The sun is shining, school is out, and it’s time to have some summer fun. Get the whole family involved and make plans to spend some quality time together.

This time off from school is a great opportunity for you to connect with your foster child. These summer months are also critical for foster children, many of whom have moved around a lot during the school year. If they have fallen behind in their schoolwork, now is the perfect time to help them catch up.

Consider some fun activities that come with a side of education and learning. Many local museums and art galleries have special summer pricing for kids and families (and some even host free entry days!). Try out a history museum, and then follow it up with an outdoor trip to the park. Active learning!

If your budget allows, you can also consider summer camps for your foster child. These camps are a great way for foster children to socialize, make new friends, and learn new skills. They often come with fun outdoor activities, too, like swimming and hiking.

The warm summer months are a great chance to help your foster child experience brand new things. Take a trip to the beach, check out a baseball game, or go for a fun bike ride. These new experiences will turn into special memories for your foster child, and will help your relationship grow.

Remember that summer adventures don’t always have to be grand. Head to the library to pick out a few books on a rainy day. Hold a weekly movie night and eat some popcorn while watching your favorites. Work together to plant some new flowers in the backyard.

Need even more ideas?

  • Volunteer! Show your foster child the importance of giving back and connecting with their community.
  • Head to a local farm to pick fresh fruit. Bonus points if you cook something with them. Mmm raspberry cobbler!
  • Go for a campout. You can find a local campground, or set up a tent in your backyard. Roast smores, and take time to relax and look-up at the stars.
  • Play miniature golf.
  • Go to a drive-in movie (yes, they still exist!).
  • Go to the pool and lay out in the sun.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Feeling adventurous? Go zip-lining!
  • Have a picnic. Make the meal together and then head to a fun place to eat it!
  • Learn something new together: try out music lessons (and start your own family band!) or take a cooking class.
  • Join a summer reading club. This is a great way to keep your foster child reading and learning throughout the summer, and usually comes with a little prize when they reach their reading goals.

Remember that whatever you do, you are spending quality time with your foster child, and letting them know they deserve your attention. Have fun!

June 2018 – Between Families Newsletter

Self-care: Do it for yourself, your family, and your kids

If resource parents had a motto, it might be “children first.” Or perhaps “children and their families first.” Either would be fitting. Foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers do what they do because they want to see children and their families heal and thrive.

Becoming a foster parent: how to decide if it’s for you

Foster parenting is a big, but rewarding experience. Helping vulnerable children by providing them with a safe and loving home is a selfless way to give back and support those who need it the most.

If you’ve been considering becoming a foster parent, but still aren’t quite sure, there are ways to evaluate if it’s right for you.

Spend time with children (of varying ages): Volunteer at an after-school program or group home facility. Offer to babysit for current foster families (this is also a great way to help support them and give them some time away!). Work with your local foster agency to see if they need someone to watch the kids during their regular foster care or group meetings.

Take a class (or two!): Sign up for trainings or courses on children and child development. Learn more about parenting and adolescent growth. Many colleges and community centers provide classes like this. You could also check with your local foster agency for their offerings.

Make sure you’re financially prepared: Foster parents receive financial support from the state’s agency, but it is important that you are fiscally responsible and are able to support the current needs of your family, and the new foster child.

Know the rules: All states are different, so it’s important to check out what your state requires of you to become a foster parent. What is the age requirement? How many references will you need? What is the application process like?

Consider your space: Make sure your home is big enough to add another person, and check if your local agency has any size requirements for bedrooms.

Think about transportation: A new person to care for comes with a bevy of new appointments. Do you have reliable transportation to take your foster child to the doctor, to school functions, and to meetings with the foster care agency?

Assess your adaptability: Sometimes a foster placement comes with very little warning. Are you ready and willing to take on a child without much notice?

Be prepared to change someone’s life: Foster parenting fills a gap between what a child needs and what their family is able to currently provide. Children in the foster care system deserve love and care, and to know that someone is looking out for them. Having this in their life is transformational.

When you’re considering the foster parent route, don’t be afraid to ask questions. TFI Family Connections is always here to provide you with the help and support you need to make the best choice for you and your family.

Preparing your home for your foster child

So you’ve decided to become a foster parent. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey! But first: it’s time to get your house ready!

You don’t always get a lot of lead time when a placement needs to be made, so it’s good to be prepared, should the time come. You foster child is likely coming from a place of great transition, so making your home as comfortable and welcoming as possible will go a long way toward making them feel safe and secure.

First, be ready with the supplies. Depending on their situation, foster children don’t always have a lot of belongings. It’s a good idea to have at least a few essentials waiting for them when they arrive. A toothbrush, some toiletries, and a few clothing items (in varying sizes and genders) is a great place to start.

If you want to go the extra mile, put together a basket of goodies for your foster child. Their own cozy blanket, some age-appropriate toys and book, and other fun items are great ways to make them feel at home and cared for.

You can create another special welcome token by putting together a book of photos of the family, and let the foster child know you want to add new photos with them, too. Again, as foster children don’t often come with personal belongings, a memento like this can be very meaningful.

If you’re able to provide the foster child with their own room, get it ready before they arrive. Knowing that they have a comfy place to come home to that is all there own will mean so much to the foster child. You can decorate it yourself, or let them pick out a few things to help make it personalized for them. Let them know they are free to rearrange or organize it however they want.

Keep your fridge stocked with extra goodies and treats, and be ready for that extra belly you have to feed! Once they arrive, a great way to bond and learn more about your foster child is to ask them about their favorite foods. Have a special meal to welcome them to the house, and maybe have a special night of the week where they get to pick what’s on the menu for dinner.

Put together a binder with important information: family contact information, where the adults work, names of family members, house rules, etc. This is a great way for the foster child to learn about the house and your family.

Make sure the rest of the home is warm and inviting, too. Organize and clean the common areas to make sure your foster child knows they are welcome in the whole house. They should be able to feel comfortable hanging out as if it was their own home.

It can take time for foster children to fully settle into a new space and new family. Taking these first preparatory steps, though, will help the child know they are welcome and wanted in the home. This will help the foster child feel safe and at ease in their new surroundings.

How foster care can positively affect the children already in the house

A foster parent can provide countless benefits to the children they foster, but those benefits also extend to the other (biological) children in the house.

While bringing in a new family member certainly creates a period of transition, it also comes with the opportunity to complement and enhance your children’s lives.

Here are some other ways foster care can benefit your children:

  • They will learn the importance of giving back. You are showing your children how one person can make a difference in the lives of others. By seeing this, they will understand how they can support those in need and help others. It will also open their eyes to the needs of their own community.
  • They will learn compassion. By welcoming a new family member into the house, and learning their story, your kids will better understand the needs and trials of others.
  • They will learn how to share. They probably already know this one, but adding a new person to the house can create new opportunities to build on these skills and better learn to “play well with others.”
  • They will learn to model good behavior. If you have a set standard of rules and expectations in your house, your children will be able to act as a guide for the new foster child. This will allow them to be proud of their good behaviors, and encourage the foster child to follow suit.
  • They will learn there is enough love to go around. Love is infinite, and your children will see that they are capable of bonding and loving new people, and that you are able to love others without it detracting from your love of them.
  • They will become adaptable. Changes and additions to the family bring chances to learn how to roll with the punches, and see the positives in each new opportunity.
  • Your family will develop an even stronger bond. You’re all in this process and experience together, and your team will grow stronger because of it.
  • They will learn about saying goodbye. Although goodbyes are hard, this is not necessarily a negative. As fostering is not (always) permanent, when the child leaves the house, your child will have the opportunity to learn how to say goodbye, yet still love. They will be able to learn about grief and coping, lessons that are important for life.

Inevitably, fostering will impact your family. At an up-close-and-personal level, your children will be able to experience and develop their skills for empathy and understanding. They will learn that they are part of the foster process, too, playing a critical part in creating a welcoming and loving environment for the foster child.