Deciding to become a foster parent meant you were taking on a few roles and responsibilities.
For starters, you’re their primary caregiver and support system. You also provide them with a stable home life. And let’s not forget how important your role is in their emotional development and behavioral management.
That’s a lot of hats to wear and can feel downright overwhelming. There’s one more role you play and it might be the most important.
It’s your job to be your foster child’s advocate when it comes to their education. Your involvement in their academics help your foster child succeed in school.
I’m able to teach my foster child about anger management and healthy eating habits. But I struggle big time when it comes to supporting their school endeavors.
All you need to do is ask my kids how I did during the remote learning phase of their education. It was rough all around.
If you’re a foster parent in the greater Seattle area and feel overwhelmed by any role you play in a foster child’s life, reach out to City Ministries Child Placement Agency. They have resources available allowing you to parent your foster child successfully.
Help Your Foster Child Succeed by Understanding Their Struggles at School.
Most kids find school to be a safe place. They get to see their friends, learn new things, and get involved in various activities. But for a child in foster care school can be very scary and overwhelming.
Depending on your child’s situation, a school environment can be a place of high anxiety. Especially if they’re struggling to read and write. School can bring up social anxiety issues and make it difficult to form friendships.
Most teachers have the gift of connecting with students and providing educational support. But in the end, your foster child needs you in their corner both at home and at school.
Start by meeting with your child’s teachers, counselors, and other support staff. They’ll give you a clear picture of what’s going on at school.
Things to ask your child’s educators include:
- Is your child struggling during free time and recess?
- Are they able to make friends?
- Do they turn in assignments on time?
- Who do they eat lunch with?
- Is there a subject or area they do well in?
Don’t expect teachers, case workers, or social workers to advocate for your foster child. They’ve got enough on their plates as it is.
It is your responsibility to fight for your foster child.
Get involved with the school, teachers, and extracurricular activities. Not only will this help your foster child feel safer, but you’ll also always know exactly what’s going on.
Understanding of your foster child’s struggles makes using these tips more useful.
5 Ways You Can Help Your Foster Child Succeed Academically
#1. Stay in contact with your child’s teacher.
You’re on the same team as your child’s teacher.
Keep your child’s teacher informed on what’s going on at home. If your child’s having a hard time sleeping, let the teacher know. Don’t assume a teacher understands what a foster child experiences.
This doesn’t mean you need to give out any personal family information.
If visits are causing angry outbursts at home, let your child’s teacher know. They can get the counselors and other support staff involved if needed.
Things to consider when communicating with your foster child’s teacher include:
- Ask how they prefer to communicate with you.
- Be respectful of their time when needing to talk with them.
- Create goals for your foster child together.
- Let them know the areas your foster child shines when at home.
- Be honest with any and all concerns you have.
Communicating with your child’s teacher plays a huge role in their academic success.
#2. Keep your child’s school updated on visits.
You and I both know the impact visits can have on a foster child. A child can experience confusion, hurt, betrayal, and fear. But it can also remind them of the trauma they experienced when they lived at home.
It’s unrealistic for family visits to not affect a child.
Focusing and following directions might be harder on visitation days. Give your child’s teacher a head’s up if visits result in negative emotions. This helps ease the transition back into the school environment.
It’s not always possible to control when visits happen. But do your best to schedule visits outside of school hours. This way a child can sort through the emotional pain of seeing family. And it doesn’t have to interfere with their academics.
Ways you can help your foster child transition from visits to school include:
- Talk as much as your child needs and wants about the visit and any concerns they have.
- If appropriate, let them bring a stuffed animal or blanket to and from the visit.
- Let them know they can call you after the visit if need be.
- Share your concerns with the case worker and see what suggestions they have.
- Have the child dropped at home with you before heading back to school.
Helping your foster child transition makes visits more successful and less stressful for everyone.
#3. Carve out time to help your foster child with their schoolwork.
It’s more than likely your foster child will be behind in some areas of school.
Statistics show children in foster care lose up to four to six months of progress every time they move.1 Catching your child up with reading, writing, and arithmetic takes time and effort. But most of all, plenty of patience on your part.
You and your child’s teacher can work together to create realistic goals for your child.
Things to consider before setting appropriate goals for your foster child include:
- Where should your child be academically given their age and grade?
- Make note of what areas your child does well in.
- Talk to your child’s doctor and hear their thoughts and concerns.
- Remind your foster child they’re okay and this isn’t something they should feel ashamed about.
- Praise every success your child has, no matter how big or small.
Prepare to offer plenty of patience and grace while you work with your foster child to catch up in school. This is not an easy part of foster parenting, but it’s such an important role you play.
#4. Empathize with the challenges your foster child experiences.
Help your foster child succeed in school by relating to their struggles.
Imagine how hard it’s been for your foster child. Being removed from their family and placed in a strange home. And then they’re expected to start all over at school. Most of us don’t do well with change, and your foster child’s no exception.
School could remind your child they’re different from their peers. As a result they might display negative behavior as a way to cope. For some kids, this could mean withdrawing from others and becoming antisocial. And other kids could have angry outbursts and violent tantrums.
Any and all these behaviors are okay.
Empathizing with your foster child can look many ways. A few examples include:
- Saying “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. You’re very strong.”
- Let them know it’s okay to feel frustrated, sad, confused, or any other emotion they’re feeling.
- Give them space if that’s what they need.
- Learn to actively listen when they’re sharing their feelings with you.
- Find fun and playful things to do together that don’t involve school or homework.
Help your foster child do well in school by connecting and building trust with them.
#5. Start prepping for school before the first day arrives.
Preparation is half the battle in almost everything. And preparing your foster child for his or her first day of school is no different.
Before your child starts school, set up a time to tour the school. You can meet his or her teacher, get to know the office staff, and check out the classroom and lunch room. Your child can see where they’ll be sitting and ask any questions.
You can also ask the teacher what supplies they need.
Taking your foster child supply shopping is a great way to build excitement about school. Find a backpack or lunch box with their favorite color, animal, or cartoon character. This goes a long way in helping them adjust and feel like they fit in with their peers.
You also want to make sure there’s a quiet area in your house where they can study. Depending on the age, this might need to be in a shared space where you can assist if needed.
Letting them know school isn’t something to fear makes the transition a little more manageable.
Other ways to help your foster child prepare for school before the first day include:
- Buying a first-day-of-school outfit, a new jacket, and other clothing necessities.
- Making sure they have a healthy lunch with foods they enjoy eating.
- Looking into any extracurricular activities and signing up for a few.
- Connect with kids on your block who go to the same school.
- Finding something fun you can use for motivation or reward.
Everyone does a little better when they know what they’re about to walk into.
Support for Helping Your Foster Child Transition Into a New School
It takes a village when it comes to parenting a foster child. The more resources, support, and specialists you have, the better off your foster child will be. Both at home and at school.
Help your foster child succeed in school by getting involved. This means staying in communication with their teacher and advocating for their well-being.
If you’re a foster parent looking for extra support and resources, reach out to City Ministries Child Placement Agency. With their partnership, you can give your foster child the best chance at success.
Contact them today.