This post is part of a series by Todd Chipman. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.
We have come now to the final post in this series on foster care and adoption ministries. Over the last several weeks, I have suggested that FTC readers hoping to foster or adopt in 2019 will have greater success if they develop five specific partnerships. I have presented these parenting partnerships in a specific order. Think of these five relationships as layers of scaffolding arranged to form a support structure for your family.
The most basic parenting partnership is the one you cultivate with your spouse. You must develop a “together” mindset, a humble commitment to grow and learn about parenting and each other. Even if you have children already in your home, you will find your parenting skills stretched thin by needy kids. Partner-up with your spouse. Be a fortress together and for each other. Second, develop a parenting partnership with your church. Your pastor, small-group leader, and children’s or youth staff can help you parent needy kids. It’s what God has called them to do, so keep the church beside you through the journey. Third, if you have kids already in the home—biological or through placement—you will need to cultivate a kind of partnership with them before bringing new kids into the fold. The kids you already have need to know that you are committed to their success. You can assure them that you are by bringing them into the decision-making process whenever appropriate. Help the kids you already parent to feel like they are a part of your decision to foster or adopt, and they will be more likely to welcome new kids as siblings. Fourth, partner with your parents. Grandparent figures provide foster and adopted kids roots and connections, stability. If your parents are initially reluctant to support your pursuit of foster or adoption ministry, don’t be offended. Seek their counsel and be slow to take offense. They will likely come around—and you will benefit greatly from their connections with your kids.
This brings us to the fifth and final parenting partnership I urge you to cultivate as you prepare to foster or adopt in the coming months. Get connected with the local schools where your foster or adopted children will likely enroll. Though homeschooling or private schooling might be an option for educating foster kids, courts and agencies will nearly always require parents to place kids in a public school so I want to give attention here to ways you as parents might develop a partnership with local public schools. Public school is home for most foster kids. School, not the same school necessarily (because foster kids often move from one school to another when they have a change of placement) but school as an institution is home. School provides stable relationships and routines, food, emotional boundaries, friends, and activities. School is life for foster kids so develop a partnership with the local school your child will attend. This will help you as a parent connect with your kids. I suggest at least two steps:
1. Visit the school before the child is placed in your home. Make an appointment to meet the principle, guidance counselor, homeroom teacher, and nurse. Share with them as much information as possible. Don’t think you are imposing. You will make their jobs easier if you prepare them to welcome your child’s arrival. This is a crucial step in your foster or adoption ministry—even if you give the school just a few days’ notice of the child’s arrival. If you know that your child has a special medication schedule (most foster kids are prescribed behavior-regulation meds), let the school know. If your child has an interest in an extra-curricular activity or sport, connect with the coaches or staff.
2. Volunteer at the school routinely even before the child is placed in your home. If you want the school to partner with you, partner with them. Make that school your primary locus of community ministry and you will help your child connect with you. I suggest volunteering for a short period of time, perhaps an hour or two, multiple times per week. This will help you get to know routines and people—who you may want to keep away from your child and who you want to connect with your child. Heed the advice of the school administration on what volunteer opportunities might help you connect with the school and help your child to connect as well. After the child is placed in your home, continue volunteering on the same schedule. If your partnership is a win for the school it will likely be a win for you and your child.