Vol. 13, No. 2 May 2009
Easing the Transition to a New Foster Home
In an ideal world, birth, foster, and kinship parents would always receive the support they need to continue parenting their children. In such a world, children would never need to move from one home to another.
Yet despite our best efforts, here in the real world some children do have to move. When they do, they are often uncertain, afraid, and grieving.
Sharing Information Is Key
To make these transitions as painless as possible, we need adequate information sharing. For the social worker, this means working with the child’s parents to learn about the child’s likes and dislikes, bedtimes, routines, favorite foods, and other things that will help the child feel more comfortable, and then passing this and other information on to the foster or kinship caregiver.
For foster parents and social workers, this means sharing information with the child as well. The child should know at all times what is happening to them and why.
Based on the responses we received to the most recent Fostering Perspectives writing contest, there are a lot of things young people want to know before moving to a new foster home. Core questions may include:
Will you respect me? Respect means different things to different children. It can include treating their belongings well (even if they are worn or dirty), honoring their religious faith and supporting church attendance, treating every child in the home fairly, and never referring to them as a “foster child.”
Will you help me maintain connections? This includes visits and other contact with family members and also connections with friends, former foster parents, etc.
Will you accept me for who I am? Children frequently blame themselves for moves. We must constantly make it clear to the children that what is happening is not their fault and that they are not being punished for something they did.
In the box below you will find suggestions of strategies that foster parents and their agencies might try to answer children’s questions, share important information, and make transitions easier for everyone.
Agencies can ask foster parents and young people currently in foster care to help them develop the following tools, which can then be incorporated into pre-service training and social work practice.
The “Getting to Know Us” form. Filled out by foster families, this form can list whatever information children in care might be most interested in, such as: foods we like, TV shows we watch, who is in our family, or what we do on the weekends. Workers can give these sheets to the children before or, at a minimum, on the way to the new placement, so they have some information on where they’re going.
The “Getting to Know Me” form. Children can use these to share things such as their favorite foods or TV shows, something they’re proud of, what they want to be when they grow up, or people who are important to them. This helps give some sense of control to the children and allows them to bring attention to their strengths.
Copyright © 2009 Jordan Institute for Families