Summer is waning, and foster parents feel excitement at the prospect of kids going back to school. But should they? Summer was busy with kids around more often, meaning fewer breaks and times of silence for foster parents. Noise and kids were everywhere, so the return of kids to school means peace will reign supreme between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., right?
Well, not exactly. How soon foster parents forget!
School means getting back to schedules that include more things to do and less sleep for foster parents. It means constant interruptions on the phone instead of in person. It means numerous lists, dates, and new people to remember– and unfortunately, it means problems.
Have I disillusioned you? Do you have those perfect foster kids I’ve been told about but never actually seen? The ones who wake up bright and early, dress without coaxing, and bounce down the steps with smiles on their faces, brimming with positivity? Those are the same kids who eat breakfast without an argument, wear warm hats to cover their ears, have all their school stuff in a neat pile the night before, and leave you with a kind word and a hug. I’m speaking of kids who actually go to class on time and participate, do all their homework, and score A’s on tests. Where are these kids anyway?
Let’s return to reality, shall we? My former foster kids were of the “other kind”– the ones who had to be, hmmm, “convinced” to get out of bed. Mine were of the variety that descended the stairs and snarled at everyone in sight. I had those who greeted me by hissing like a snake for no apparent reason, or those to whom I became the enemy overnight– still unsure of what I did to them while I was sleeping.
My former foster kids were constantly– but of course “accidentally”– missing the bus. This resulted in an extra 10 miles of driving that we could add to the already hundreds of miles we put on our van each week. And when they finally got to school, the real fun began.
Calls from school were more regular than meals at our house. There were calls to let us know “so and so” never showed up; detours were commonplace. There were calls to tell us to come get our kid “out of their sight” because, once again, he had caused disruption in the classroom. Apparently they were not impressed, as I was, with the fact that he was actually in the classroom. We made deals with the schools to let us come and de-escalate our kids ourselves, which made for constant calls.
Trying to get the kids to do homework on time and properly was as challenging as winning an Olympic medal. Somehow we managed– we all made admirable attempts and most times attained some degree of success.
School time means the juggling act is mastered where you take x number of kids and multiply it by x number of activities and try to make it all fit into x number of hours. You fit in counselors, doctors, and support groups between school meetings, concerts, and sports. You also need to feed them, care for them, and talk to them. Foster parents are amazing.
So, don’t be too quick to have summer end. When you’re doing that dance that all parents secretly do when their kids return to school, enjoy it because it may be your calmest moment until the first day of school next year. Your demands and work increase while your time and sanity decrease, but here are some tips to help you survive:
1) To help things run smoothly, live by schedules and calendars.
2) Be consistent in your expectations and consequences, since this is a great time-saver.
3) Don’t take anyone’s word for anything unless you check it out for yourself.
4) Remember you are professional parents, and as such, deserve some consideration as to school-scheduled meetings and conference times. We had to explain life with several challenging kids in one household to the schools. They were fond of scheduling meetings at 7:30 a.m., which is a horrible time for most foster parents. Your time is as valuable as any other professional’s time is.
I know how tough it is to keep up with kids who often go to different schools. I’m aware of how many tasks your school day includes. It’s a challenge, but you can do it. So take that long bubble bath and relax while you still can. Eat your Wheaties and gear up for the challenge that schooltime brings. Most of all, have faith in yourself and you will conquer the many problems of school days. Thanks for fostering!