If I am a Foster Parent, What Can I do to Help the Child in My Care?
It is very important to remember that children are resilient and can flourish in a sensitive, stimulating environment. There are a lot of things that you can do to help the child in your life.
1. Follow-up on the child's medical and educational needs by:
- Obtaining the child's medical and developmental history from the social worker
- Arranging an initial assessment for the child as necessary
- Most counties in each state provide standard assessments for children when they enter foster care. It is important to know that all counties do not provide the same type of assessments. For example, it is common for counties to provide only a medical exam. If you are unsure what assessments are provided in your county, you should contact your local child protective services or health and human services agency or a social worker.
- Although a variety of assessment services are provided to children when they enter the foster care system, it is recommended that they receive the following assessment services within thirty days:
- Medical exam including:
- Screening for lead exposure
- Screening for communicable diseases
- Review of immunizations to ensure they are up to date
- Hearing and vision screening
- Developmental screening or educational assessment. See How is developmental delay identified? for more information.
- Mental health assessment
- Dental exam
- Communicating with other professionals in the child's life about his/her needs (i.e., social worker, doctor, teachers)
- Keeping good records that can go with the child if he or she leaves your
- Asking questions if you do not understand the information professionals are giving
2. Provide a safe and secure emotional environment by:
- Creating a structured setting that includes a predictable set of daily routines
- Sharing a consistent set of rules and expectations with the child
- Practicing positive behavior management techniques such as "star charts"
- Giving the child a chance to share his/her feelings without the fear of being judged or punished
3. Get to know the child in your care and help identify his/her strengths and
areas of need with regard to development and behavior. This information will
be extremely important to the other professionals in the child's life and will
allow them to make the best possible decisions about how to care for the child.
For more information on child development and developmental delay, see
How children develop
4. Help the child in your care access services provided by local agencies and
programs. Children with developmental and/or behavioral difficulties benefit
from participating in early intervention programs or activities that focus on
learning. For example, early intervention programs work with the child to address
his/her developmental strengths and areas of need. Also, many preschools or
Head Start programs offer activities that focus on helping children learn new
developmental skills in preparation for kindergarten. Playing and learning in
this environment can provide children with an extra boost to help them learn
new skills. See Resources
5. Take care of yourself. Being a foster parent can be very rewarding and tiring at the same time. As a result, it is important for foster parents take care of themselves by:
- Looking to family, friends, and other foster parents for support
- Having realistic expectations for the child in your life and how you can help her
- Using other resources to help your child and give you a break to rejuvenate yourself so you can continue to lovingly care for the child in your care!
- Making sure you get enough rest to be energized for whatever may come your way
- Exercising to get rid of stress (it gives you more energy, believe it or not!)
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