As foster parents you sometimes accept the responsibility of raising a child until they are ready to leave the system. Did you receive that manual that gives you a checklist of things your child will need to know before heading out on their own? Me either.

Even with our own biological children, we forget some of the important skills they will need when they move off to college or get their first real job and move away from home. Here are some simple skills to remember when assessing your child’s strengths:

  • Clothes washing. Do they know how to separate colors, measure detergent, and use the machine and listen for important noises (i.e. when it’s lopsided because a king-size comforter really shouldn’t be washed in a washer)?
  • Dish washing. Do they understand the art of fitting as much as possible into the dishwasher to conserve water, and do they understand which things cannot be placed in the dishwasher (i.e. some plastic items, cast iron, and dirty tennis shoes)?
  • Self Care. Do they understand the importance of hygiene and the effect it has on job searches and dates? Do they regularly wash their hair and brush their teeth? Do they know who their doctor is and when to schedule an appointment?
  • Money Management. Can they figure out the change due from a purchase before the clerk can? Can they successfully save money and make plans on how to buy something they desire? Do they understand the concept of a loan and interest rates? Do they have a bank account and can they balance their checkbook?
  • Renting. Can they tell you how to look for an apartment, compare rent rates, and read a lease agreement? Do they know how to contact the utility, phone, and gas companies?
  • Social Skills. Can your children approach someone to ask for help or introduce themselves? Can they avoid making inappropriate comments or apologize when they have done something wrong (i.e. telling their new boss that he might want to staple that hair piece to his head. True story)?
  • Relationships. Do they understand the importance of surrounding themselves with supportive people, as opposed to dependent people? Do they understand the importance of loving yourself before you can love someone else?
  • Sexual Activity. Can they name two ways to prevent pregnancy? Do they know what a sexually transmitted disease is? Can they turn down a sexual advance? If female, do they understand the importance of seeing a gynecologist?
  • Work/School Habits. Can they tell you what type of schooling they need for the job they desire? Do they know what job references are for and how to ask someone for a reference? Do they know how to job search?
  • Home Living. Do they know how to sew on a button if needed? Do they know how to cook meals (more than a TV dinner)? Do they know how to grocery shop and keep it within their budget?

Imagine if you were sent out into the world without having learned some of these basic life skills. Some of the children we deal with have been in residential facilities and have never learned even the most basic skills.

One tool to assess the “life skills” of teens is the Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment. You can access it free at The assessment has three age group choices. You will first have the child fill out the assessment online to give their own assessment of their skills. (This is very humorous to those of us that have to fill it out after them and see that they gave themselves the highest score in every area!) The parent then uses the same Youth ID number they did for the youth version of the assessment and fills out the caregiver version of the assessment. By using the same Youth ID for both versions, you receive via email a detailed report giving you mastery levels, percentages, and a detailed list of the questions and how both you and the youth answered each question. This is a fantastic way of assessing the areas in which your child needs guidance. As always, take a deep breath, smile, and know that you are treasured in this world and the next!