By Carol Jones
- Understand that any difference is an issue for children. If the child you foster is a different race from your family, make sure everyone in your immediate family and your extended family accepts the child. Any negative references or “jokes” should be stopped. This includes references to someone being stupid or retarded or brain damaged also.
- Tell people in your family to stop the negative talk, it is critical that the foster child feels accepted. In extreme cases, foster parents have stopped going to family dinners because the people in their family have not been able to be quiet around their foster child about race and other differences.
- Respond if anyone talks about the difference in skin color. It is best to say something like “we are all different” or “we are all beautiful in our own way”. When someone talks about your foster child being “slow”, it is good to point out some of the things the child is good at. Make the examples age appropriate if possible. Talk about strengths such as the child is good at making new friends or has a pretty singing voice or he/she is good at math.
- Support your foster child, don’t let any kind of slurs go by without addressing the issue or the child will think that is how you think about him/her too.
- Let your children or anyone else call the foster child names, even supposedly cute or funny names can upset or hurt the child’s feelings. Foster children have a hard enough time with who they are and where they belong, they don’t need someone changing their name or making fun of their name.
- Let anyone put your foster child in the position of always losing. This means if the children want to play a game, don’t let them choose a game where a lot of reading is involved if the foster child can’t read. Likewise, a footrace against a foster child that has difficulty running is unfair and unnecessary. Help the children choose games that everyone can play and supervise the game to make sure the children are playing well together.
- Never assume that children are going to play well together because they did it one or even more times. Likewise don’t assume all adults in your home understand the needs of the foster child.
- REVEAL ANY of THE FOSTER CHILD’S HISTORY, but do let other adults and children know the best ways to interact with your foster child. Foster children cannot all be treated like you treated your own children.
- Touch a child new to the family until you understand how they will react. Traumatized children sometimes do not understand kindness or adults who want to help. Their experience with adults has been that no adults were to be counted on or trusted. You may really scare them by being too friendly or too intrusive into their space.