Creating a “Memory Box” For Your Foster Children

One of the things I’ve heard over and over from former foster children is that they often miss out on having keepsakes and mementos from their childhood, especially if they’ve been moved between several homes. Many of us take it for granted that we have baby pictures, grade school projects, and other mementos from our early years—but not a child who was in foster care. Sometimes, entire years of their lives are undocumented because of so many moves.

I remember when our first foster children arrived. I had every intention of maintaining nice scrap books for them. But then reality hit—there was no way I was going to keep up with a scrap book! So I came up with a different idea: Memory Boxes!

It’s been nearly six years, and I still maintain Memory Boxes for each of the kids who is with us for more than a couple of weeks. This past weekend, I had a chance to speak with a woman whose children were in foster care for six months (and have been reunified). She told me that it meant a lot to her that her children’s foster parents gave her photos and mementos from the time her children were away from her. Memory Boxes are not just for the children in our care—they’re for their parents, too.

Here is my (very simple) system for keeping track of mementos for each of our kids. This video is old (no, I didn’t cut my hair—this is what I looked like in 2015!), but it’s still my practice all these years later! The boxes I used in this video are no longer available, but these* would work well!

Hope you find it helpful!

*Amazon Affiliate Link

Foster Parenting Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Conversation with Kevin (Podcast Episode 10)

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, one in nine girls and one in fifty-three boys under the age of eighteen experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.

The effects of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and can have a profound affect on the victim’s mental health. Victims are four times more likely than non-victims to develop symptoms of drug abuse and/or experience PTSD as adults, and they’re three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults.

Out of the 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated by Child Protective Services each year, 80% of perpetrators of sexual violence against children were parents. Many of those children are placed in foster care, and it is vital for foster parents to be equipped to support children who have been traumatized sexually.

My guest for this episode of A Fostered Life Podcast is Kevin, a man who knows all too well how being sexually abused as a child affects a person’s life. As he shares from his experience, Kevin offers invaluable insight and advice for those of us who may be called on to care for children who are victims of sexual violence. 

I’m so grateful for Kevin’s transparency, vulnerability, and willingness to share about this extremely hard topic, and I know you’ll gain as much from  this conversation as I did.

Kevin’s Suggested Resources for Victims of Sexual Trauma and Abuse:

BOOKS*

“Victims No Longer” by Mike Lew

“Not Quite Healed” by Cecil Murphy and Gary Roe

“Beyond Betrayal” by Richard B Gartner

“Writing Ourselves Whole” by Jen Cross

“The Courage To Heal; A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

WEBSITES

malesurvivor.org

livingwell.org

PODCASTS:

MPower Survivors

Healing Warriors Male Abuse Survivors

Beyond Surviving with Rachel Grant

CRISIS LINES

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-800-273-8255

crisisconnections.org

24hr Crisis Line; 206-461-3222,

local7-1-1, WA relay

866-4CRISIS national

For more information and resources for foster parents, please visit afosteredlife.com, where you’ll find blog posts, youtube videos, and social media links so you can connect with others on the foster parenting journey.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about foster care.

*Amazon Affiliate Links

Photo by Trần Toàn on Unsplash

5 Ways to Help Your Foster Youth Succeed in School

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year for students in Seattle.

For kids in foster care, school can either be a really safe, positive, and supportive space, or it can be yet another source of trauma and shame—or perhaps a mixture of both. Some children have to change schools each time they have a new placement. Some children are stigmatized for being in foster care. Some children lose days and weeks of education because of placement changes during the school year. Some children are so burdened with PTSD, depression, and anxiety that they find learning extremely difficult.

If you are a foster parent who has a child heading back to school, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Give them what they need to succeed. Take them back to school supply shopping armed with the list from their school. Let them pick out their notebooks and folders and backpacks. Make sure they have high-quality supplies. Don’t get them the cheap backpack that will fall apart or the cheap pencils that don’t write well. Make sure they have a space to study at home, and set a system in place to motivate them—perhaps a half hour with a favorite video game once homework is done. Make sure they have nice school clothes that they had a hand in picking out.

Find out what extracurriculars are available to them at school and make sure they know they have your support if they want to join. Things like after school drama club or sports can be exactly what a child in care needs to find a healthy sense of community and self esteem. If they need to get to school early or be picked up later in order to participate, find a way to make it happen for them. Give them every opportunity to have the full school experience!

Coach them on getting enough sleep and eating well. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it is so important. Perhaps for older kids this means letting them know that the internet will be off from 10 PM to 7 AM so they are not online into the wee hours of the night. For younger kids, this means having a set and steady routine.

Be in touch with their teachers and try to stay ahead of academic challenges they are facing. If your child is behind, talk with their teachers and social worker about what supports are available. In Washington, we have access to educational support for kids in foster care through Treehouse and other organizations that support youth in care. Take advantage of whatever is available. If your child is resistant to the support, those folks can often help come up with ways to motivate them. (This might be new to you as a foster parent, but it is not their first rodeo! Rely on their expertise!)

Let your child know you are with them and for them. Words of affirmation combined with thoughtful and intentional actions will go a long way! Try to speak supportive things to them throughout the week. Don’t just focus on how they’re doing in school… ask how they’re feeling about school. One way I love to do this is to share “Roses and Thorns” at dinnertime. What were the best parts of your day (roses) and what were the worst (thorns)? For ideas on how to connect with your kids in conversation, check out The Family Dinner Project for some ideas.

To hear more thoughts for foster parents on helping your foster children succeed in school, check out last week’s podcast! I chatted with Ernest Henderson, Jr., who is Associate Director of Eastern Washington Education Programs at Treehouse. Ernest is not only an education advocate for youth in foster care—he is also a former foster youth AND a former foster parent. He really knows his stuff and had some great insight to share!