How Communication Helps Build Resilience in Your Foster Child

While we cannot spare our foster children from all of the trauma of being in foster care, one of the best things foster parents can do is cultivate a home life aimed at helping build resilience in their foster children. In this and the other two videos in this series, I offer three things you can do every day, beginning on day one of a new placement, to do just that.

In the first video in the “Resilience Series,” I talked about how routines can help build resilience. I discussed how routines help children learn to predict what to expect each day, and how that predictability can help them feel safe and secure. I also offered examples of daily, weekly, and seasonal routines (or rituals) that kids grow to really appreciate, from the bedtime routine to the annual holiday traditions.

In this video, I am sharing about the vital role communication can play in helping children develop a sense of stability, security, and safety as they adjust to being in a new place (your home). Because of how chaotic and disruptive it is for children in foster care, they often experience a sense of insecurity associated with instability. By practicing good communication, we help our children feel seen and heard, and we help ensure they feel prepared and informed about whatever life might throw at them that day.

Good communication also provides an opportunity for validation, a vital part of helping build trust and confidence. .

Check out Part I here, and be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss Part III, which is coming out this Friday, in which I will discuss the role having fun plays in building resilience!

How Routines Help Build Resilience in Your Foster Child

In the world of mental health, the word “resilience” is used to describe a person’s ability to recover from traumatic events, and for children in foster care, the list of traumatic events is long. Unfortunately, the mitigating circumstances of children coming into foster care is just the beginning of their trauma. While it might be tempting to think that being placed in a safe home is removing them from trauma, the truth is that being placed in foster care is yet another traumatic event.

While it might be tempting to think that being placed in a safe home is removing them from trauma, the truth is that being placed in foster care is yet another traumatic event. Everything is new, foreign, unknown, and ultimately scary.

While we cannot spare our foster children from all of the trauma of being in foster care, one of the best things foster parents can do is cultivate a home life aimed at helping build resilience in their foster children, and in this and the following two videos, I will be offering three things you can do every day, beginning on day one of a new placement, to do just that.

In this video, I am sharing about the vital role routines can play in helping children develop a sense of stability, security, and safety as they adjust to being in a new place (your home). Because of how chaotic and disruptive it is for children in foster care, they experience a sense of insecurity associated with instability. By instilling and maintaining routines, we offer our children the ability to predict what’s coming next—something that is often taken from them when they come into care.

In this video, I discuss daily, weekly, and seasonal routines and rituals that help kids feel a sense of order and predictability in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable world. I hope you find it helpful!

Click here for some free downloadable PDFs of routines we use in our home!

5 Qs to Ask at the Start of a New Placement

Last week, I posted a new video on YouTube in which I shared five questions I would not have thought to ask at the start of a new placement, but, over time, I have learned to ask. Those questions are:

  1. Has this child (or these children) been in care before?
  2. When is the child’s birthday?
  3. Are their parents involved and engaged in services?
  4. Could you give the parent my phone number?
  5. Where does the child go to school, and are McKinney-Vento services in place?

I encourage you to watch the video for the full scoop on why I ask these questions—the first story will break your heart (but don’t worry—it has a happy ending!)

But I wanted to take it a step further in this blog post, because a seasoned foster parent who watched my video offered some additional suggestions for questions to ask. I’m grateful for her input, and wanted to share it here!

A viewer named Emily shared,

We also ask about how they are with animals because we have animals in our home. We ask about how many visits they have and what the transportation expectation is. We have said no to a placement because the kids had 2 visits with mom and 2 visits with dad each week; it’s great for kids to see their parents, but we couldn’t transport to 4 visits a week.

Emily makes two fantastic points.

First, if you are a home with dogs, and the child you are being asked to take is afraid of dogs, it would only add to their trauma to bring them into your home. You are not the right placement for them.

Second, Emily is so right—we all have a limited capacity, and while we support reunification efforts, including parental visits, four visits a week is a big ask—especially if you as a foster parent are expected to provide transportation. It’s sad when it comes down to that, but it is important to be realistic and honest about what you have the capacity for and make decisions about placements accordingly.

I’m curious to know what you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below!