Starting back to school after the half term break means getting back into the routine for foster carers and their children. Routine is particularly important – it creates a sense of structure. And that’s always good for a foster care family. We’ve put together a few pointers to help keep the routine going.
Be aware of what is expected by the school: you’ll have had information from the school about important diary dates. A foster carer should always – especially if a child is new to a school – ensure they understand the rules about uniform, breaks and the use of mobile phones. It’s also good idea for a foster carer to know the names of teachers as well. It’s also a good idea as well for a foster carer to be familiar with the school’s website. This enables them to talk with a foster child about school rules, who the staff are and what they do, and any upcoming events – such as sports day.
The school day: excellent communication skills are essential for a foster carer. One of the most important things a foster carer can do is to listen. Being an excellent listener communicates empathy to a foster child. It shows you want, as a foster carer, to be an important part of their world. Once the term starts, always take an interest in a child’s school day. Be aware of what their favourite lessons are – as well as the not so favourite. It is a good thing if a foster carer is aware of the weekly timetable and at the end of each day ask how things have gone. Be interested and encourage a foster child to share their views about what they have learnt. Remember also to talk about their friendships and wider relationships in the school. If you can get a child or young person to share their enthusiasm for a particular subject, that is a great way to keep the communication channels open. It is also a very good way to establish and build trust.
Many children come into care from chaotic backgrounds. Supporting them at school is an effective way to help them to understand the value of being organised. Help them to plan their week: days that they need to take PE kit into school and when they will be doing their homework. A wall calendar in the kitchen is a great idea as it stimulates conversation as well as keeping things organised. It’s also a good idea to put treats – cinema trips – or extra curricular activities on the calendar. Including holiday dates and ‘seasonal’ treats such as Easter and Halloween is a good idea as it gives a sense of stability and continuity. You can also get a child to think about nutrition by perhaps including a few healthy meal options for particular days. Fostering an interest in cooking is a great way to prepare meals together – which facilitates conversations avow all sorts of other things that may be going on in a foster child’s life. Being aware of their daily lives, without being overly intrusive, is important. When this is done properly, it is very effective at building and maintaining trust.
Social media: this is an area posing many challenges. We live in a very different world from only a few years ago – one with many more distractions. Children want to be able to be in touch with their friends, but it is important that they are not left for long periods by themselves on social media. Social media is useful in that it provides an opportunity to establish some rules. During term time smartphones should not be accessible when homework is being done. Neither should they be allowed to be used at mealtimes. Phones and tablets should not be allowed in a young person’s bedroom at night time. Children need to be getting good quality sleep: the use of digital devices and computers should be prohibited an hour before bedtime.
Rules and routines are important. Children can be resistant them, but making sure they are in place does communicate that you have their interests very much at heart. So whilst there may be occasional tantrums, it is important they are in place and consistently applied.
Start your foster care journey with Team Rainbow
Get in touch with Team Rainbow if you have been considering fostering and feel now is the time to move things forward. Take a look around the rest of our web site – there’s plenty of information and we are always adding to it. It’s essential that you have a chat with one of our recruitment officers as they can give you guidance about the process of becoming a foster carer. You’ll also get a feel for what it might be like being a foster carer with Rainbow.
Contact us now, or leave a message on our website to arrange a suitable time for us to call you. 020 8427 3355 or 0330 311 2845 (our National Line). Find more information about the rewards of a career in foster care at https://bit.ly/2OkgCzS We are now very keen to speak to applicants in Manchester and Birmingham – visit https://bit.ly/2zdLb4G and https://bit.ly/2SyrFIU for more information.