When I was a caseworker for children in foster care, I was always so thrilled to hear about foster families taking vacations with their foster children. Most of the children on my caseload had never traveled outside of their home state or city for that matter. Going on vacations with their foster parents offered them the opportunities to learn that there is life outside of their situation and that the world is vast.
Vacationing with foster children is exciting, but also brings up some potential issues that need to be addressed. Here are a few tips to help.
1. If you have foster children who are on controlled medications (such as meds for ADHD, etc), make sure to get a prescription renewal from the doctor in case the medication is lost while traveling, damaged, or you have a medical emergency.
2. Take documentation with you! Depending on the state you reside in, you should have something in writing that the children are placed in your home as foster placements. Again, in case of an emergency, this documentation could be of help, especially if it comes to a medical emergency. Also, familiarize yourself with how medical expenses can get covered for out-of-state care.
3. If your foster children have scheduled visits with their biological families, work with the caseworker to schedule extra time either before or after your vacation. Typically, these types of arrangements can be made so that the biological family does not lose any time with their children.
4. It is best to check with your caseworker regarding whether a court ordered is needed to take a foster child across state lines. Some may require a notification to the team of the dates, locations, and emergency numbers; however, you need to speak to the caseworker about what type of approval (if any) is required.
5. There are children who struggle with anxiety and even the thought of knowing about an upcoming trip could cause a great deal of stress. Because of this, you should discern when and how much information you share with your foster children regarding the vacation. If a child is in counseling, you might want to involve him or her in that discussion depending on the needs of the child.
6. If possible, discuss your vacation plans with your foster children’s biological parents. Even though their children were removed from their care, they still worry about them and want to be involved in decisions. They also might be excited to hear about vacations plans.
7. Talk with your children about any fears or concerns they have regarding going on a vacation. Remember, a lot of the children have not traveled outside of their home state so may not understand. Keep it simple. Stick to the structure that they are already accustomed to.
8. Last, but not least, take LOTS of pictures. Vacations provide so many wonderful memories and the pictures would make an awesome addition to your children’s life books. These books mean a lot to foster children!
Family vacations are a wonderful way to provide your foster children a sense of belonging and some incredible memories. Showing the world through travel to children caught up in the foster care system is an amazing thing to do. Let the adventure begin!