Resource guide: Ways for Teachers to Support Kids in Foster, Adoptive, or Kinship Households
Teachers, you have a big and important job, and you can play a vital role in supporting children who come from foster, adoptive, or kinship households. These suggestions are meant to set you and families up for success when connecting with students who come from hard places.
Be a Team
It’s important for teachers to establish a positive relationship with the family and child early on, so offer to meet with the child’s parents as soon as you learn that a foster, adoptive, or kinship child is going to be in your classroom. Unfortunately, teachers and parents are accustomed to holding meetings after problems arise. Being proactive and showing interest in the child’s story and needs before there are problems helps parents and teachers be on the same team from the start. This can help the child feel safe and supported in the classroom and create good connection and accountability between home and school.
It is important to gather information from the family first and not directly from the child. Keep conversations with kids responsive to their thoughts and feelings without asking them details about their backgrounds.
Look Beyond the Behavior
External behaviors are symptoms of internal realities. As a teacher, please be aware of the child’s background to help understand any trauma experienced. This can help you have a more accurate expectation of a child’s behaviors, emotional maturity, and capabilities. Caregivers may not be able to provide details due to protected information, but they can usually give insight into specific behaviors to watch for, possible triggers, and helpful intervention strategies. Prevention is the best strategy!
Learn about the unique challenges that foster, adoptive, and kinship families face. This will help you better understand their needs and how you can support them. It is important for teachers to believe that most families are doing their best. Families want their children to succeed at school, and they are often going to multiple meetings each week with social workers, case managers, therapists, and sometimes biological family members. Families have many voices surrounding them with advice as they seek the best for their child and family, and this can leave them feeling overwhelmed and moody. Teachers have an opportunity to extend compassion and understanding.
Communicate with Caregivers
As a teacher, please consider communicating regularly with caregivers to understand the child’s needs and progress. This can help you provide more personalized support. Also, try to let the parents know when the child is doing well so they do not only hear negative reports. When communicating, always try to offer a solution. Foster, adoptive, and kinship families can experience a wide range of emotions. Be a listening ear and offer words of encouragement.
Use Inclusive Language
Review your lessons and assignments from the perspective of children who may not live with their biological family. Avoid drawing attention to them while making sure that assignments have inclusive language and multiple options where needed. This applies to ancestry or family tree assignments, family characteristics reports when studying heredity (eye color, etc.), and other similar topics. When talking about families, use the terms parents, caregivers, adults, grandparents, and guardians interchangeably. Many foster, adoptive, and kinship kids refer to their guardians as parents and do not want to be singled out, so use a variety of terms. Children will determine what they prefer, and you can then follow their lead.
Know about Community Resources
Foster families with limited resources face many challenges, including financial strain and difficulty accessing necessary services. However, building support for these families is crucial to ensure the well-being of both the foster children and the caregivers. Teachers can also offer additional resources such as tutoring or after-school programs to support the child’s academic and emotional needs. Advocate for these families: Speak up for policies and programs at your school that support foster, adoptive, and kinship families.
At the end of the day, know that you cannot over communicate. Understanding that everyone is doing their best and extending grace will help enhance patience and reduce stress. Finally Home is continually adding in-person and virtual programs and resources to our website. If you come across a family that’s struggling, please share our free resources with them.