Four Back-to-School Tips for Foster Parents

Four Back-to-School Tips for Foster Parents

As summer break rolls to a close, students all over the country are gearing up for a new school year. But for youth in foster care, this can be an incredibly different experience. Some youth are going back to their same school for the first time living in a different home. Others have had to switch to a different school, maybe in a new town, where they know no one and may be afraid to be identified as someone in foster care. We asked Angie McKim, who has two school-aged youth in foster care, to give us four tips for foster parents.

1. First off, I would say that sometimes our kids start out with a knock against them. Assumptions that they will have behavioral problems, get behind in classwork, or that we as parents won't care about their progress, etc. My advice would be to sit down face-to-face with teachers and tell them you are in it to win it with the kids. That you are a team, and you will be doing everything you can to help them teach your kids and prepare them to be taught. Teachers need to see your face and realize you are an advocate and will fight for your child.

2. Communicate! Communicate everything you can, let the teachers know when visits are, how kids handle visits, how kids are sleeping, all of it. Ask to be told how they are handling school after visits. If there are spikes in negative behavior, talk to biological parents and teachers about how to handle that.

3. Look at school as another opportunity to model parenting to biological parents. Show them what an involved parent is and how to navigate parent/teacher relationships. We brought our kids' biological mom to parent-teacher conferences with us, made sure she had copies of school work, etc. Many times, these parents didn't have the best school experience. Show them how to deal with teachers appropriately, how to advocate for the kids and how to work together.

4. We haven't had a placement that has had to switch schools, but I have been on the teaching side of that. Encourage the kids to tell the teacher their fears and concerns. Most teachers will be more than happy to find a "good-influence" friend to pair with your child.