By Carol Jones
Sources of strength and support can come from many different places. Relationships can be a source of strength. Ask who the child loves and who the child thinks loves him/her. Who does the child think are his/her friends? And who does he/she play with or spend time with? Who would the child call if he/she was in trouble?
Also ask who really likes your foster child? This can be a teacher or someone else at school or a youth pastor or Sunday school teacher at church. Sometimes there are sources of support that you have not thought of before such as a librarian that spends extra time with your child or a life guard at the pool that takes time to talk to your child.
Which teachers does your child like the most and what are his/her favorite subjects. This does not have to be where he makes the best grades, but where he enjoys the subject and/or the Teacher or the other students in the class. In which classes does he/she get positive feedback?
What are the situations where your foster child handles things well or better than expected? When does the child demonstrate problem-solving skills? Who does the child communicate well with? Communication does not have to be verbal, it can be through facial movement, touch/pointing, music, or other non-verbal cues.
Does the child show that he/she can manage impulses? When is that? What situations are the easiest for him/her manage? Does the child function well independently in some situations? What are those situations?
What does the child show curiosity or interest in? What does the child do well? Does he keep his room clean or is she good with animals as well as something like plays games with others, or sings well or runs fast?
Does the child have spiritual or religious beliefs? Is the child part of a team or community of some sort? When the child went into foster care these support groups may have been lost to the child.
Does the child seem hopeful? Are there some people for which the child can show empathy? Does your child show respect for authority? When does that happen and who gets the respect?
What are ways that we can help our foster children develop relationships, coping skills, develop their interests and connect to groups where he/she can feel a part of a larger community? Some ideas are:
- Make a list of the people that care about the child. Put it somewhere where there is room to add to the list. Remind the child on a regular basis that there are people that care about him/her by reading the list.
- Make a list of people that help the child including their doctor, teachers, social workers, church members, friends and family members.
- Look for situations where the child is comfortable or happy. Try to replicate these situations by figuring what makes it so good.
- Encourage the child when he/she expresses an interest in being someone like a teacher or a policemen even if it is not likely.
- Make a list of the child’s talents. Make sure to include even small things such as he/she makes the bed well or he/she is nice to younger siblings as well as drawing well or running fast.
- If a child shows interest in playing an instrument or drawing, try to figure out ways where he/she can have a lesson or sit with someone who can do the things he is interested in.
- Look for clubs that will be inclusive for the child. Church groups or scouts or clubs where you see the child being successful are possibilities. You might have to get involved to help your child be successful. Volunteering to bring a snack for the group is a good way to start.