Getting your foster child/ren ready for a new school year

The new school year is upon us and this can be exciting or nerve racking for any child. When you add the complexity of trauma, it is more likely that a new school year will lead to additional stress for children and young people in your care.

As carers, we are tasked with creating a safe (emotionally and physically) environment for the child/ren we care for. This extends to supporting their transition such as a new school year (potentially also a new school) as well as in the home.

For children that are resistant to going to school in any way, please uphold your responsibility as a carer to ensure you find ways to get them there and to support them to continue to go. One of the most saddening statistics for children who have been in care relates to poorer educational outcomes (this is not all children but too many). A good education is a critical foundation for vulnerable children that will set them up for life.  

Starting the new school year or a new school is a period of significant change and adjustment and for children that do best with predictability and routine, it can be a tricky period.

To support any children in care in your care in this transition, you may find the following helpful:

  • Contact the school early and based on context of preparing a child with trauma to come back to school, ask for the list of teachers (if more than one) and the class list (probably only realistic if only once class) for 2020. This will help you to have conversations with your child/ren and help them to feel more prepared for day one, week one.
  • If you can, arrange to go to the school the day before everyone starts (our school always provides this option for new children so we can just come along if I ring and organise) so you can show your child/ren where their class is, where their lockers are, where the closest bathrooms are etc. I did this last year with CC (8 years old at the time) and it really took the pressure off for day one.
  • Check what trauma informed strategies your child/rens teacher use and if you know information about what works best for your child/ren in the classroom, then share this as well. There are many great resources available to schools/parents now and if you visit my earlier blog on education, you could share this with the teacher.

FRIENDS FRIENDS FRIENDS

The other significant consideration is who your child/ren will be in the classroom with. Hopefully your school can put some consideration into this.

As mentioned earlier, ask the school for the list of children in the class (if not available for any reason then ask other parents what they know) so you can have conversations with your child/ren about the children in their class.

You know your child/ren best and will be best able to support them if there are children they do not feel comfortable around. If this is the case, do let the teacher know as well so they can be aware of any dynamics.

I have intentionally set up a couple of play-dates for CC (and my other daughter) leading up to school starting with girls they like that will be in their new class. This is just a nice anchoring that helps when they get back.

If your caring for a young person, then invite them into the conversation about how you can support this transition.

If you are caring for a child or young person who does struggle with school then ensure you are having formal meetings with the school prior to work out joint planning to support her/him to go to school, feel safe and have an safety plan (such as chill out space, teacher s/he can go visit) in place for times this is necessary. Ensure your child is also aware of the plan and involved if appropriate.

At the same time, us parents/carers are also adjusting to the back to school routine.

Preparing the home to go back to school>

  • Remember to create extra time for everything to avoid rushing and stress.
  • Start working on adjusting from holiday relaxed routines to school based routines. In my house this means getting everyone to bed a bit earlier, getting up earlier than they naturally want to.
  • Get uniforms etc sorted early enough to be ready for week one.

That said, I truly hope you and your families enjoy the final days of school holidays and that 2020 is a good year for you all.

Above is a complimentary checklist I have developed to support you. Please contact me for your own copy (apologies for quality of photo).

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