Advocating at the School for your Foster Children

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The public school system has its good qualities and its bad qualities.  It has its good teachers and its bad teachers.  Unfortunately navigating the different schools can be daunting especially for foster families that work out of multiple homes.  While most foster homes will work with a single school, emergency and short term foster homes work with many schools for varying amounts of time.  This can be confusing as really the only thing you can do is do the most you can in the least amount of time.

I often find the schools unsurprised when children go into foster care.  Teachers and the primary reporters of suspected abuse and even when they aren’t the ones that reported, they are usually the first to know that issues are arising.  The problem with emergency foster care is you need to learn everything there is to know about a child in a short amount of time and then implement a plan.

Using the children’s teachers as a reference with new children is a good resource.  Often times the teachers at the children’s school have been the only stable adult in the child’s life.  These adults have usually built a foundation with the child that can be built upon with the right direction.  The children will usually trust the teachers they already know sooner than they will trust the new foster parents.

One of the first things I do with a new placement is sit down with the teachers and get an idea of the child’s performance, level of education, and broad behavioral challenges.  Then I request (sometimes forcefully) a team meeting.  The team meeting should include the child’s teachers, the school counselor, the school social worker, the principal, the foster parents, and the agency social worker.  When feasible, the bio-parents should also be included.  A plan needs to be made to address where the children are and where they need to be and then make a plan on how to get there.  It is up to the foster parent to be an advocate and enforce the plan.  It is also up to the foster parent to request services for the child.  And then keep requesting until the services are received.

Try not to lose your patience.  These things take time.  Persistence is the key to achieving effective advocacy.

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Interracial Foster Families

English: Children at a parade in North College...

English: Children at a parade in North College Hill, Ohio, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am always surprised that the concept of interracial families is even still considered an issue.  I know racism is still rampant in many areas and I can honestly say that I didn’t think it was such a big deal until I became a foster parent.  Some people are truly racist, others are rudely curious, and some are just ignorant.

I have always considered myself to be an open minded person.  My mother always taught me that color is a non-issue and that people are people regardless. She raised her kids to be color blind.  Further growing up in a rural area, left me little exposure to the bigotry that exists in more metropolitan areas.  So imagine my horror when we became the target of racism.

The first introduction I had to racism was the people who asked us where we got our kids from.  My husband and I, although both white, did not think anything of accepting children of other races.  Whenever we have Black or Hispanic children, people inevitably ask us questions like where we got the kids from.  People literally assume that the kids come from other countries?  I have never justified these questions with answers.  I find it insulting to ask this of a complete stranger.

The second introduction we had to racism was from the children.  In more cases than I would like to admit the black kids we had were racist to white families.  We were told things like black kids shouldn’t be with “white folk” because we didn’t know how to raise them right.  We were also told things like we couldn’t take care of their hair or skin properly because white people can’t do stuff like that.  We were accused of making the kids “wannabe whites”.  I am not even sure what that one means, but it was said to us at one point.

There is no real advice I can give on how to deal with these people.  The reality is some people just suck and that is never going to change. The sadder part of the situation is the adults that drag their children down that hateful path. When strangers ask us rude questions, we very bluntly tell them how rude it is to ask someone those type of questions.  Family members and friends who were not accepting of our mixed family were no longer welcome around us.  We have our family and that is all that matters to us.  And children who acted racist in our home, were immediately told that that type of behavior would not be acceptable in our household.

But the one thing we know for sure is that in our world, people are people no matter what color.