What To Do When Your Foster Child Speaks To A Teacher Poorly

Many children when transitioning from one home to another will take out stress on authority figures. This is a natural defense system that many kids put up, and there is nothing wrong with your kid if they happen to behave this way. But, these issues do need to be dealt with in a manner that is appropriate for the school, and also fair for your child.

Talk to the teacher: Let the teacher know you do not approve of this behavior and you will make an effort to make sure it doesn't happen again. Explain your child has gone through a bit of stress lately, and apologize for the fact it was taken out on them.

Explain why such behavior is bad: When first talking to your child, explain why talking poorly to a teacher is not okay. It hurts their feelings. It disrupts other children's chances to learn. And there are better ways to deal with anger in the classroom.

Listen to their side of the story: Then- ask their side of the story. Let them know "Okay, I know you know what you did was wrong. But- what made you do it? Did your teacher do something to make you upset? Or another student? Or are you just feeling mad today (I feel that way some days too)?" Then LISTEN. Don't judge. Don't interrupt. Let them tell their side of the story.

Have them write an apology note: Give them a day to cool down from the episode, and then make them write an apology note to the teacher. Even if the teacher did do something wrong- have them explain in the note how the teacher's actions hurt their feelings, but they still want to apologize for acting out the way they did. This teaches your child open communication skills- that allow relationships to develop rather than walls to be build.

Offer alternative ideas: Then work together with your child to create a list of alternate ways to deal with anger in the classroom. Have them give an idea, and you give an idea. Take turns writing down good ways to deal with being mad. Here are a few ideas.

        Write down your thoughts: Have your child write down what makes them angry. If they're teacher is being mean to them, have them write down their issues and bring them home to you. Together you can decide how to approach the teacher in a nice way.

        Call home: If your child is truly having a very bad day, where everything is making them mad, offer to them the option to simply call home. Let them rant for a quick minute and ask your advice on how to handle things. Just letting off the steam over a phone call can make a difference in attitude.

        Talk to a counselor: Again, if your kid is just having a bad day and they are super mad- taking a moment to take a visit the counselor and talk through their issues can help clear their head and let them finish the day without an issue.

Things To Teach Your Tween Foster Child

The 'tween' years are tough for any child. Hormonal transitions and the confusion of Jr High can overwhelm any child- but it can be especially daunting for a kid in foster care. There are a lot of basic skills that many tween kids miss out on learning, because of constant transitions or less-than-great adult role-models. Tune into your inner teacher while a tween is in your home, and teach them a few of these great basic skills that can take them so far in life later on.

How to cook basic meals: Get in the kitchen with your kid and give them the basic tools to be able to feed themselves! Teach them how to read recipes, how to use measuring cups, and how to use an oven, stove top, and microwave to cook many meals. These basic tools aren't often taught to kids who spend a majority of their time in foster care, but are necessary things they need to know in the 'real world'.

How to save money and spend wisely: A simple penny bank can go so far in teaching your child money saving and spending techniques. Small savings habits can add up over time, and teaching your child to budget their gift money and allowances and save for bigger purchases can give your child the money-skills to be successful later in life.

Basic sex ed: I know it's awkward- and it can be a touchy subject with children exposed to sexual harassment in the past. But it is SO important to teach your tween safe-sex practices BEFORE they become active. Be upfront and honest about STDs, the emotional ties that sex can cause, and of course- pregnancy. Kids need to know the basics to protect themselves and the people they are active with later in life. Many tweens in foster care move from school to school and often miss the two-month 'sex ed' course. With the help of therapists and counselors, work to teach kids this course yourself- it can literally change their life later down the road.

How to use a schedule/planner: In Jr. High many schools will start requiring kids to use a planner, and I think this is fantastic. Encouraging your child to use a scheduler or calendar at home, as well, can help create organizational skills and planning skills that can keep them on-the-right-path through all of high school and leading into college.

Responsibility through pet care: I believe between the ages of 10 and 13, is the PRIME time to get kids interested in independent pet care. I'm all about letting my foster kids have pets, and encourage my tweens to pick out a small animal that they- and only they- can be responsible for (of course with my monitoring in the background for the well-being of the animal). Easy-to-care-for reptiles, freshwater fish, small pet rodents, and small birds all go over very well with my tweens. Not only does it give them a much needed emotional animal/human bond, it teaches them how to responsibly care for something!

Why You Should Buy Your Foster Child New (Not Used) Items

I'll admit that I stock up on all sorts of thrift-store items for my foster children. I buy bulk lots of clothes on eBay for them. It's impossible to afford a brand-new wardrobe for every child that comes into my home. But it's NOT impossible to buy them a few new things, that THEY picked out. And I think it's extremely important that you get your child new things while they live with you. I realize that if your child comes to you with two shirts and a pair of pants- it's more financially-friendly to buy them bulk-lots of used clothes. And that is fine as well! But treat your kid to a few new things once in a while. It won't break the bank, but it will make a difference- and here's why:

Most kids in foster care are constantly getting hand-me-downs and used items. There are a lot of organizations that outfit child services with lightly used items for kids in care. With that being said, the kids almost NEVER get to pick out these items for themselves, and none of the items are personalized. They're used to getting these 'used' things handed to them- and although they are obviously grateful, the items don't always feel like 'theirs' because they don't necessarily match their personal style or preferences.

Personalized items can mean a lot to anyone, but especially a child in foster care. Living in a world where everything is 'temporary' is tough. They have a 'temporary family', a 'temporary bedroom', possibly a 'temporary school' and 'temporary friends'. So having something permanently theirs can mean so much. Having a bedspread that THEY picked out can be such a nice thing for them to bring from place to place. Having clothes that express their style and were purchased brand new for them can help them keep a bit of their identity amidst all of the changes.

Another reason new things can mean a lot- is because OTHER kids have new things. Simply because they are in foster care does not mean they should not be able to have new and nice items. But a lot of times that's the case. And 'foster care' is used as an excuse to let a child go without new and nice items. New clothes can help your child feel more confident in school. Personalized bedroom decor can help them feel more at home in your home. Give them the same things every other kid gets to have. The time they live with you, and their 'foster' status shouldn't prevent them from being treated to quality items once in a while.

December Foster Parent Bucket List

Visit A Lights Show: Many places hold free light-shows. Specific neighborhoods often go all-out. Zoos have drive-through evenings. And churches and other organizations will sometimes put up a sparkling display. They're often free or low-cost. So why not spend a night driving around?

Send Holiday Gifts To Siblings/ Birth Parents/ Relatives: Christmas can be a difficult time for foster children. They'll often worry about their siblings, parents, and other relatives. If they themselves get gifts, they may feel guilty wondering if the rest of their family did. Prevent your child from feeling too overwhelmed by allowing them to buy and give gifts to their birth family. It will ease their minds and give them a chance to celebrate with their birth members.

Feed Birds: In the winter, many birds rely on birdseed to survive. So make a day and create a winter birdfeeding area. You'll draw in nature for your child to enjoy- and make many feathered neighbors very happy.

Learn About Other Cultural Holidays: Even if your child celebrates the same holiday as you- make a point to teach them about other cultural holidays. Take time to open your kids eyes into the traditions of Kwanza, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

Bake And Decorate Cookies Together: There's no better time to bake and decorate cookies- than around the holidays. Stock up on frosting, sprinkles, and decorations. And let your imaginations run wild with baking creativity.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Drinks Alcohol

My heart sinks at the idea of one of my children coming back home drunk (or God forbid I find them out and about drunk). It's a hard thing on any parent to have to deal with a teenager who made the unfortunate decision to take to alcohol. But keeping your cool about the ordeal is more likely to make a better impact than getting mad. So take a deep breath and follow a few of these steps.

Wait for them to sober up: Don't try to reason or lecture a drunk child. It just won't work. Put them to bed, give em' some hangover treatments the next morning, and let them sober up before the 'big talk'.

Ask them why they drank: First of all, ask them why they made the decision to drink. Listen to what they have to say. Don't judge. Often times peer pressure is involved- and that's a really hard thing for teens to overcome. Begin by always allowing your child to explain themselves.

Talk about why it's bad: Explain calmly why you don't approve of them drinking. How bad things could happen to them. Teen girls are more likely to be raped while drunk. Drinking and driving kills hundreds of people each day. Alcohol poisoning, although rare, DOES happen and is possible. And it's fair and simply against the law- so it's not okay.

Watch a DUI documentary: Typically my consequence for my child drinking, is to have them watch a teen-oriented documentary about DUI's. Most schools have these on hand, as well has MADD and SADD groups. Libraries also have them available. All will typically let you use them for free. If a child drinks in my house. The first thing we do is watch a video about the worst possible thing that often happens when drunk.

Attend an alcoholics anonymous group: My second consequence is to contact a local AA center, and ask them if my child and I can join one of their court-ordered groups (often filled with underage drinkers who were caught and arrested). We'll go through the entire session together- and attend an entire series worth of meetings.

If my child is adamant about drinking, I will create mature, monitored opportunities for them to drink in my home. This is a controversial topic that often goes un-discussed. I am open with social workers, therapists, and case workers about this. Not all of them approve, but most understand. If my child is drinking outside of the home- I feel as though it's better for them to drink with me. I, myself, never drink. But I'll allow certain kids to earn the ability to drink in my home. They can have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer on the weekends. They can experiment maturely. They'll be in a safe place where nothing bad can happen if they get intoxicated. They can learn to monitor their intake. And most of all they won't be drinking and driving. This rule largely depends on the age of the kid, their family history, and their maturity. But, I do feel that in cases where my child is drinking anyways- and I can't control their behavior, then I should at least be able to supervise their behavior.

Where To Find Free Kids Clothes, Toys, Books, and More!

As a foster parent, free things are one of my favorite things. I love finding good deals on quality clothes, toys, books, kids bedroom furniture, and an array of other things. I can keep 'extras' of stuff I find on stock to give to new kiddos when they come into my home. I can also help the birth parents of my past foster kiddos, if they come to me and are in need of a specific item (acceptable gym shoes for their teenager or school clothes, etc). Finding free things is easier than most people think. Online there a variety of places dedicated to helping people get rid of things they no longer use and putting them in the hands of people who actually could use them.

Craigslist: Probably the most widely known classifieds site in the world, Craigslist has a 'free' section where people often give away items- usually they'll have them packaged on the curb or in the yard of their house and all you have to do is be the first person to pick them up!

Kijiji: This site is run by eBay, but is almost exactly like Craigslist. Once again there is a 'free' section where you can find great deals and snatch up some awesome items that other people aren't using anymore.

Hoobly: Again, this site is a lot like the last two listed. It's a classifieds site that has a 'free' section where you can pick up an array of awesome items.

Listia: If you're like me, you probably like giving as much as you like getting! If that's the case then listia is the site for you. On this site you can auction off your old items and earn 'credits'. With those credits you can turn around and purchase new items offered on the site. It's just like eBay, except no money is involved. You simply ship the items people bid on to them. And then bid on their items in return!

Swapstyle: This site 'went out of style' quite a while ago, but there still are a few awesome active members. Swapstyle is an international site and many women from Australia, Europe, and the US use to swap clothing. Most of the clothes are teen girl and adult women sizes- but they do have some kids clothes as well (and lots of accessories like hats and gloves). You can trade in your old clothes for new clothes! I love this for swapping out-dated clothing for more relevant stylish outfits for my kiddos.

Rehash: Just like Swapstyle, Rehash is a great site for swapping clothing with women and girls around the world. This one is a bit more kid-friendly, and actually allows anyone 13 and older to use the site- so you can set up your teen child and let her swap her own clothes! What a fun way to get her excited about geography and fashion!

Freecycle: I LOVE the concept of this site. In an attempt to lessen our burden on mother earth, freecycle was created as a 'free giveaway' site where people can recycle and reuse other people's items. There are different freecycle groups for different locations so you can search different areas near you. Many also have the rule that you need to GIVE as much as you receive. So throw out your used items, and get something you need instead!

Paperbackswap: Just like Swapstyle and Rehash this website allows you to trade items with other people around the world. Except this site is focused on books rather than clothes. I love this site and scavenge thrift shops for cheap books- then get online and trade them for books my kids want!

SwapTree: This site gives you a list of sites like Bookswap where you can trade items with people around the world. There are multiple categories including books, DVDs, CDs, and video games!

Why I Don't Set "Rules" On The First Day A Foster Child Comes Into My Home

Controversial topic time! Woo... *sarcasm. Okay, so a BIG thing that almost ALL foster parents are taught in our 'training' is to create stability for our kids by having rules. And many of us are taught that on the very first day you are supposed to tell your new foster child the house rules. I, on the other hand, HATE this technique and am avidly against it. Let's talk about why I hate it.

1) It immediately creates an environment where the child has set expectations, creating pressure on both of you. I find that sitting down and listing out a series of rules, the first day you meet the child, will only overwhelm everyone involved. The kid will feel pushed into a corner and as they're trying to adjust and fit in- they also now feel like there are -so- many things they could do wrong (which causes a lot of unnecessary grief and panic). Additionally, we as the parents, automatically feel like, since we said the rules exist, we need to immediately start enforcing the rules. Our FIRST priority should not be setting expectations and rules, it should be helping the child cope to, and adjust to this drastic and overwhelming change in their lives. Throw the rules aside for a minute and focus solely on making sure your child is comfortable. If you were just stripped out of your home and put in a strangers house (often with no awareness as to the reason), and then you were told a series of rules to follow- you would feel hurt and scared. BUT if you were put in the same situation, but instead of having rules shoved down your throat- you had a caring adult offer to help you adjust and try to make you comfortable, things would seem a lot better off.

2) For many kids, especially teenagers, authority creates animosity. If you put your foot down the second your child walks into your home you *think* you're making it aware that you're the boss. The truth is, in many teens eyes, you're only creating a challenge for who will become boss. You have to remember it is not the child's choice to be living with you. Can you imagine the anger you would feel if you were forced to live with someone who rather than making you welcome- strictly told you 50 rules you 'need to follow'. That would seem really off-putting. Once again, I feel the first day should be a day to make the kid feel comfortable. It shouldn't be about who's in control, it should be about making sure your kid is okay on their first day.

3) We set the rules later on, once we've gotten to know each other. This way I've gotten to know the kids- I know their habits and I know their personalities a bit. We're also more open to chatting with each other about the things. I -always- involve my kids in the 'rule making'. They have a say in their consequences and expectations. See my "Dawn's House Rules" posts for more information on my "rules". But once I know the kids, I also know what motivates them and what matters to them. If my kid comes home from school every day and does their homework- why should I create a rule saying "You need to get your homework done.". They obviously already do it. Instead of wasting my time on enforcing a rule that I don't -need- to enforce, I'd focus my attention on other things, that do need improvement. Knowing the kids, allows me to know what rules I should create. If they struggle with cursing- then I know I need to make a rule about language. But if they don't use bad language, why should I waste my breath setting a rule that will never need enforced anyways? Get what I'm saying here? If you raise a child from birth, you'll set rules as they need to be set. If your child is kicking another kid, you'll create a 'no kicking' rule. But until they act a certain way- you'll probably never tell them *not* to act that way. Treat your foster children the same way. Expect that they will be great kids, and when they do make a mistake- correct them and create an appropriate rule prohibiting such behavior.

We are often taught at the beginning of foster parent training that we must set clear, concise rules immediately. And I just don't follow that 'rule', myself. Call me a bit of a rebel, a rule-breaker if you must. But I feel like rules should be made for a reason. Rules shouldn't be made simply to attain control, they should be made to teach kids 'right and wrong' by setting examples and learning from past mistakes.

November Foster Parent Bucket List

Make A Thanksgiving Dinner (Or Entree) Together: Involve your child in Thanksgiving dinner preperation. Even though it can oftentimes be hectic and nerve-wracking for you- imagine how hectic it must feel for your child. So many sure to include them, don't let them feel left out on this holiday. Cook a meal TOGETHER and let them help when they can.

Go To A Movie: Take a trip to a movie theater once this month. It's a great way to treat your kid- and also give them a chance to see a movie they've wanted to. Let them pick. It will give you guys a fun discussion peice and a neat way to spend a few hours relaxing.

Visit A "Black Friday" Event: Granted, not all Black Friday sales are child friendly. But wait until later in the day and visit one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It's a neat experience nonetheless. And even if you don't buy anything- the excitement of everyone else is pretty fun to watch.

Go On A Dollar Store Shopping Spree: Treat your kiddo to $15 to $20 for them to spend at their own will at the Dollar Tree. It's a fun way for your kid to get some new things, learn money management skills, and discover smart shopping.

Visit A Local Art Museum: Discover the world of creativity by taking a day to visit a local art museum. Inspire your child's own artist inside by walking into the imaginations of others through paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Is Bullying Another Student

Bullying is a huge issue, whether or not your child is going through a rough time- they have no right to bring other children down. And it's important to raise awareness of bullying in children. You should never tolerate your child being unnecessarily cruel to someone- but at the same time, it's important to look for the root of the problem- and rather than simply discipline your child, encourage better behavior. So what do you do- when you find out your child was bullying?

Listen to the victim: Get the victim's side of the story first. Listen to the parent, child, school counselor, or some other person who can tell you an honest account of what your child was doing. Explain you want the facts, as honest as they can be given, about what your child did- so you can make sure to fix the issue as realistically as possible.

Get their side of the story: Before you judge your child or even lecture them- sit them down and ask them why they did what they did. Listen to their side of the story without judgement or interruption. Ask questions when you don't understand what they are saying. But truly listen to your child. It will let them know that you are FAIR because you also offered them to explain themselves. And rather than immediately jumping to conclusions- you got their side of the story as well.

Explain why their behavior is not okay: Once your child finishes explaining themselves, let them know why what they did was not okay. It hurt the other kids feelings, it disrupted the teacher's lesson, it made them look mean to other people round them.

Have them apologize to the other student: The only appropriate thing to do after an issue like this occurs, is to make sure your child apologizes. Have them write a letter, make a phone call, or meet the child at school (or at their house). Make them write an honest and thorough apology for their actions. And also make them promise to not let the same actions occur again.

Invite the other student over for an activity: One of my favorite things to do in a 'bully situation' is to have the victim over to my house and force my child to interact with them kindly. Why do I do this? For a variety of reasons. When my child gets to know the kid they were bullying, they are more likely not to bully them in the future. They learn how to develop positive relationships. They learn about forgiveness and human nature to trust again. They learn how to be kind- and find positive attributes in the other person. A few hours of time together, and most kids can be forced to get along.

Have them attend an anti-bullying campaign: There are anti-bullying campaigns held all over the country. And they're a great way to promote kindness and understanding amongst kids. Have your child attend one! Trust me- they'll leave the event with an entirely new attitude.

Watch a bullying documentary: There are quite a few documentaries on bullying in America. Make an effort to have your child watch real-life accounts of the issues kids face with bullies. It will show them the perspective of the victim, which can open their eyes and lessen their meanness.

Offer alternative ideas: Together, work with your child to create a list of alternative ways to deal with an issue- other than being mean.

        Talk it out: Let your child know that there are other ways to get their point across. If a child is doing something that makes them mad- teach them how to tell them nicely to stop. There is always a better way to say things than to bully.

        Tell an authority figure about an issue: If they have an issue with another child, rather than bullying them- tell an authority figure (teacher, school counselor, principal) about the issue.

        Ignore "Annoying": When someone annoys your child, let them know that is NOT a reason to bully them. So rather than being mean, just simply ignore them.

YA (Young Adult- Teen) Books About Foster Children

I believe reading with your child can open up so many discussions, and can really become a therapeutic (and educationally inspiring) activity that both you and your child can enjoy together. I am always on the look out for fantastic books that feature a child in foster care. Here is a list of a few of my favorites. Feel free to add your choices in the comment section below!

Harry Potter (Series): Harry Potter follows the trials of a young boy, who's parents passed away, and he was adopted by his very cruel aunt and uncle. At age 11, Harry discovers he is in fact a wizard- by the blood of his very own parents. The story follows Harry as he attends wizarding school and finds love and contentment amongst the people there. He discovers that 'family' and 'home' aren't always with blood relatives- but rather with friends and the people who love you most.

Series of Unfortunate Events (Series): This murder-mystery series follows the journey of three siblings who's parents pass away in a house fire. They lose all of their belongings and are sent to live with different relatives and foster parents (whom they have never meant before). The books are relatively sad (as they involve a series of unfortunate events), but have the uplifting message of sibling bonds and the love of strangers.

American Girl: Samantha (Series): The popular American Girl series of Samantha, features the life of a wealthier girl in the mid 1900s. Samantha's best friend, Nellie is an orphan. The stories revolve around Samantha's and Nellie's friendship, and how being sisters doesn't mean you must be blood-related.

Pictures of Hollis Woods: This brilliant tale of a teenage girl in foster care follows Hollis Woods. The book tells a beautiful story of a foster child who leaves a loving family who had the intent to adopt her, and finds herself placed in the home of a woman who needs Hollis, more than Hollis needs her. This story shows that love can come in many forms, and fate works miracles in unique ways.

Julie of the Wolves: Julie is a 13 year old girl, who in the beginning of the story loses both her mother and father at different points in her life. She is sent away to live with her foster parent aunt- who tells her she can leave her house if she marries a certain boy. Julie's life seems to be miserably held together and in an attempt to find happiness she decides to try and venture her way to her pen-pal in California. In the wilderness she teams up with a pack of wolves to survive, finding family amidst the creatures.

A Tundra Tale: A Tundra Tale is an arctic fairytale novel based on Alaskan folklore, with a paranormal twist. The book follows Olive, and an orphan girl named Sasha, as they adventure into the tundra in the hopes of helping a ghost named Charlotte pass on from the dead. (SPOILER: In the end of the book Olive adopts Sasha, and both of them realize that family and a mother/daughter bond does not need blood ties to be real).

Anne of Green Gables (Series):
This infamous novel follows the charming and lovable Anne- an orphan who is mistakenly sent to an older couple who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm. Anne is sent instead, and the couple eventually falls for her charm. Along the way Anne discovers how family truly can change someone's life, and that love is always worth fighting for.

October Foster Parent Bucket List

Send Halloween Goodie Bags To Siblings/ Birth Parents/ Relatives: Pick out some candy together, and make treat bags for your child's siblings, birth parents, and relatives. It's a good way to keep them connected during the holidays- as well as allows your child to celebrate Halloween with their birth family (even if their birth family can't be there physically).

Carve Pumpkins: Pumpkin carving is fun for people of all ages. It's messy and artistic and creative. Not to mention you can cook the seeds, and the fruit of the pumpkin in pumpkin pie! There are so many more activities aside from simply carving!

Pick Out Halloween Costumes: Let your child pick out any costume they want. Halloween for many foster children was an independant activity and they may have never had the chance to have a fancy costume. So treat them this year, and let them be whatever they want.

Go Trick-Or-Treating: Trick-Or-Treating is an activity that is widely participated in on October 31st. Dress your kiddo up, and head out to collect some candy. There's no better way to spend a Halloween night than treating a sweet tooth- and then soothing a tummy ache.

Attend A Football Game: Whether it's a high school homecoming game or a professional NFL event- football games are fun ways for your child to celebrate their team pride and experience new things. It's just a fun way to have fun together.

House Rules For My Teen Foster Kiddos Ages 13 and Up

Teenagers naturally want a sense of freedom. But at the same time they need structure and stability. The rules I create in my home for kids specifically 13 and older are discussed with my teens ahead of time. All rules are negotiable, and if they make an argument as to why they should be able to do something (have a later curfew) that makes sense, I'll usually oblige with conditions involved. I try to give my kids as much independence as possible, while also setting straight-forward expectations for their behavior. That's why, when they come into my home- I show them my rules and tell them to tell me what ones they agree with, and what ones they don't think are fair- then we can work together to create a stable environment that BOTH of us feel comfortable with. I have a very 'unique' rule system, in the fact that I don't require my children do anything. I simply encourage them to do things, by having a 'rewards and privilege system'. For instance, I don't simply tell my kids "Behave in school", they can misbehave if they want. But- then they won't be able to earn allowance, or wifi, or video game rights. Here are my basic rules for teenagers (this is going to be kind of long).

Our week night curfew is usually around 9:00 (again, negotiable under certain circumstances- school events, birthday parties, etc). Our weekend curfew is 10:30- once again negotiable. But, in order to earn 'curfew rights'- where my kids are allowed to be out late, they have to be following certain rules- which are...
-They cannot be late from the previous night's curfew. If they arrive late one night, the next night they are not allowed out of the house.
-They must answer my calls or texts in a timely manner. Phone died? Better use a friend's phone to get a hold of me and let me know. Going somewhere there won't be service? Better tell me ahead of time. If they respond to me, I'll respond to them and continue to let them have their freedom.
-They need to let me know where they'll be. If I find out they are NOT where they said they'd be, they cannot go out for one week. Honesty is extremely important in keeping the curfew open.
-They cannot be failing any classes. If they are failing a class in school, they need to stay home and work on extra-credit work, homework, and studying until their grade is up. Once they are no longer failing, they can have curfew again.

Each of my kids are given a cellphone when they come into my home. They can earn prepaid 'minutes' for their phone each month by getting good grades in school. Each month they receive...
500 minutes for each A in a class.
250 minutes for each B in a class.
100 minutes for each C in a class.
0 minutes for each D in a class.
and -250 minutes for each F in a class (they have 250 minutes taken off of their total for each F).

We have wifi available 24/7. In order to have wifi rights they just need to follow a few simple wifi rules.
-They can use social media, but need to allow me to follow them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. They also cannot publish their actual location on ANY website.
-They can have their own blogs, which I do not follow (I believe in giving them privacy), but cannot publish inappropriate pictures of themselves, drug paraphernalia, or their actual location or last name,
-They are welcome to participate on any gaming sites (Runescape, neopets, etc). No real rules, except once again no published location and I try to ask them not to use their real name (or at least not their last name).
-They can use teen chat rooms, which is very controversial, but I believe it can help them create healthy relationships with peers. With that being said ALL webcam conversations need to happen in an open part of the house (like a living room) where I can overhear. Additionally, they cannot use their real location or real FIRST or last name.

Each week my kids can earn an allowance. They can choose what (if any) chores they want to do, and are paid accordingly. They can do a variety of chores and also propose an extra chore if they think of something they can do that they feel they should be paid for. Prices for chores are also negotiable (for instance if we are washing dishes after a large holiday meal, they may feel it's more fair to get paid more. I'd agree). Our going rate for different chores is:
Washing Dishes: $2.00 a day
Vacuuming: $1.00 a room, per day.
Sweep/Mop: $1.00 a room, per day.
Dust: $1.00 a room, per day
Make Dinner: $2.00 a day
Feed Pets: $2.00 a day
Change Litterbox: $1.00 a day
Wash/Dry Laundry: $2.00 a day
Fold Laundry: $2.00 a day
Shovel Snow: $5.00 a day (only viable if there is snow to be shoveled)

My kids are always welcome to have friends over. Friends can come over on school nights, but must be home at their house by curfew. We don't do 'sleepovers' on school nights. If my kids are grounded, they are still allowed to have friends over- but MUST get homework done with their friends. My kids have sleepover rights for weekends and any days where there is not school the next day. These rights can be earned by:
-Being respectful to your peers and friends: If my kids are not kind to their friends while their friends are here, I won't allow them to continue to have friends over. This includes not stealing from friends, not cursing at them, and paying them back if they buy you food or something while in public. At school my kids cannot be bullying other children and any instances of bullying will prevent them from having sleepover rights with other friends.
-Being a good host: This means a lot of things, but basically I just want my kids to treat their guests with respect. Don't ignore them. Offer them food and drinks. Invite them to participate in activities. Don't be rude.
-Helping keep the house clean: If my kids are going to have a friend spend the night, their room needs to be clean. And they also need to clean up after their 'party' or 'sleepover' is finished (washing dishes from meals with their friends, cleaning up messes, etc).
-Being home by curfew with friends: If they are spending the night at my house with friends, they are still expected to be home by the previously agreed curfew.
-Following all other house rules: Friends are expected to follow house rules as well. If they don't, they aren't welcome over.

We have video games, computer, tablets, and TVs available. My kids can pick up any of these devices any time they want to. In order to earn the right to watch whatever show they want, play a video game, or use a computer or tablet they need to complete these basic tasks:
-Brush your teeth- pretty self explanatory.
-Finish homework, and yep- I do check.
-Have no detentions or suspensions at school (detentions and suspensions have all rights for electronics taken away).

If my child is suspended from school almost all rights are taken away from them on the days they are suspended. They do not have electronics, curfew is taken away, allowance cannot be earned that day, and the wifi will be locked. Phone minutes for the coming month will also be deducted -100 minutes for each day they are suspended.

Sex is a tough subject for most parents, but I think it's even harder for foster parents. Obviously we do not want our teenager having a child- but it's also so awkward to set clear guidelines and rules for sex. We don't know if their birth parents have talked to them. Often times we aren't even sure if they've had past negative experiences with sex. With that being said, I do feel it's important to be open to the topic of 'sex' as a teen foster parent. When kids come into my home, if they are at the age of thirteen or older, we do openly talk about sex, and I encourage them to come to me with questions and advice. I will happily give it. I also openly accept that sex is a natural part of many teens lives. I don't encourage my teens to have sex, but do let them know that it's okay if they have sex. With that being said, I always ask them to let me know. I WILL NOT get mad. But I do require them to follow safe sex practices. That means I supply them with condoms, and will usually encourage the girls to go on birth control. I get them checked up regularly (the girls visit gynecologists) and they are tested for STDs. I also talk to them very closely about how important it is to only give your body to people who truly deserve it, and I do ask that they date someone for at least a month before having sex with them. I can't always prevent my kids from having sex, but I can protect them from pregnancy and STD's by educating and encouraging them to play it safe. Many people may not feel this is 'right' and many people may feel that by allowing sex- I am encouraging it. I feel very the contrary. I feel like by allowing sex- I'm allowing my kids to have safe, open, non-judgemental communication with me about their relationships. Most of my friends were sexually active by the age of 15. Most of also did not have parents that supported this behavior- causing us to turn to more 'irrational' sexual habits (often times using inappropriate birth control methods or believing untrue stigmas about sexual intercourse). I don't encourage sex. I don't applaud it. I just realize that it happens, and instead of getting mad about it- I do my best to keep my kids safe if they choose to participate in it.

My teens are openly welcome to date. In fact I encourage healthy relationships with my teenagers and a significant other (I'm open to all kinds of relationships including homosexual, bisexual, and straight matches). We do have a few major rules with this one.
-If they are going to go on a 'date' outside of my home, I must meet the person first. I just want to know who they'll be with, where they're going, and give strict rules on what time they need to be home by.
-If they are dating someone, I expect my child to introduce themselves to their significant other's parents. I want the other parents to ALSO be aware of the relationship, and be able to communicate with me the rules they'd like their child to follow while dating my child.
-If they are going to have their significant other over to visit they are allowed to be in their room, but the door must be open. Yep- I'm a creeper parent. If they've been dating for many months, and have been open with me about their interest for more intimacy, I will understand and will allow them to have 'closed door time'. With that being said, I will require safe-sex practices and an equal respect for one another. Photos of ANY sexual nature are NOT allowed by either party. It is child pornography, it is illegal. I realize my 'closed door time' policy is controversial. Many would even say it's "wrong", but once again- rather than my kids participating in unhealthy activities (like unsafe sex) in order to hide it from me, isn't doing anyone any good. If they've proven they are mature enough and follow my rules, I'm going to allow a respectful- and yes, intimate relationship.
-If they are dating someone older than 18, or they are 18 and dating someone younger than them, sex isn't allowed, period. It's statutory rape, and it could ruin that person's life if legal issues came up.
-If they are going to have a 'sleepover' with their significant other, they must have been dating at least three months. After the three month mark, if they respect one another, I am open to sleepovers. With that being said, they need to sleep in an 'open area' part of the house like a living room. And I expect the other parents' approval as well.
-All 'out and about' dates outside of the home, follow the same rules for curfew. I must know where they'll be. They must answer their phone. And they must be home by curfew.

Drugs and alcohol are one of the HARDEST things for me to deal with. Kids want to rebel, naturally. Trust me- I was there once. And I know how it goes. So I do play this role very controversially. I am avidly against hardcore drugs and do not allow anything similar to cocaine, heroine, LSD, shrooms- or any other psychological or 'hardcore' drugs in my house. Period. I also hate cigarettes and do not allow them (if they're going to smoke- I better not find out). With that being said, I believe the two most common unhealthy 'hobbies' for teens are drinking and smoking marijuana. I don't want my kids to do either, BUT if they are curious and if they are determined to participate in activities like that I want them to be somewhere safe and supervised. So I will allow my kids to have a bit of a taste of adulthood IF they express interest and determination to do it anyways. They can have a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer on new years eve. On vacations they can have a margarita. I want them to 'experiment' with these substances in a place where they are safe and I am there to teach them how to do it responsibly. My biggest concern is my child drinking in an unsafe environment or drinking and driving. If they are drinking in my presence (even though I myself don't drink), at least I can make sure they are okay. The same goes for marijuana. If my child is going to smoke marijuana and experiment with the drugs, I do not want them going to some shady neighborhood and dealing with some awful drug dealer. I also don't want them getting high in a place that isn't safe. I'd rather have them in a controlled environment where I can be there to make sure they are participating in the activity maturely. I don't approve of drinking or smoking marijuana- let me make that VERY clear. I myself don't do either of them. But if my child is participating in those activities anyways, and makes it clear that it's something they want to do, I would MUCH rather have them do it at a place where I know they'll be okay. And that's why I sacrifice my own rules and virtues, to ensure that they are in a controlled environment and I'm there in case they need me.

Once my child turns 18, I consider them an adult. Our rules then do change. They aren't paid for chores any more, and instead are encouraged to get a job to help pay for gas and any 'extra' items they want while living with me. They have full wifi-rights without rules. They are expected to pay their own phone bills. They have no curfews- as long as they do not come home under the influence of any drug or alcohol. I will help them pay for school (and pay off school loans) as I'm able, if they get good grades. I don't ever expect a foster child to leave my home, just because they've been 'kicked out of the system'. My home is open to them as long as they are sober, working hard in school (including college) or working, and helping out around the house when able. As long as my child is acting mature, I will let them stay until they can get on their feet. They are also welcome home at any time- and are always invited to holiday events.

House Rules For My Foster Kiddos Ages 6 to 12

Around six years of age, kids start to become more independent and that's why my rules become a lot different at this time. From 6 to 12 our rules are a mixture between 'little kid rules' and 'teenage rules'. I encourage my kids to behave well, by rewarding them for positive behavior. Here are our basic rules for kids ages 6 to 12. Just as with teenagers, younger kids are allowed to 'negotiate' the rules, and are able to work with me to change the rules as they think are fair (they should get a bit more allowance for washing dishes the day after a holiday party when there are many more things to be washed- fair enough, right? I'd agree). Without further ado, our 'Older Kids Rules'

Kids 6 to 9, aren't allowed to play out and run around without supervision. With that being said, kids 10 to 12, are. They are allowed to go out and play at the playground or attend school events without me present. We do have a few rules. Our week day curfew is 7:00. And our weekend curfew is 9:00.
-I need to know exactly where they will be (and if they are walking to a store or to the playground, they need to tell me which roads they will be taking). If I find out they are lying, they are not allowed out for one week.
-They cannot be late. If they are late for curfew one night, they are not allowed out the following night.
-They cannot be failing any classes. If they are failing, they can earn their curfew rights back by raising their grades.

I do allow our kids to go online, but for kids younger than 13, they are only allowed on the 'family laptops' which stay in the living room and kitchen where I can supervise them at all times. We do have rules.
-They are not allowed to use social media. No facebook accounts, twitter, youtube, or anything similar until they are 13. They are also not allowed to be on chat rooms, forums, or 'older kids games' (where there are people who use curse words while playing).
-If they are going to watch youtube videos they must approve them with me first (so I know that they are watching something age appropriate).
-They can play games on approved sites. We like Neopets, Runescape, and other kid-friendly game sites where all of the activities on the game are child-friendly.
-They are allowed to instant message and Skype with friends, but they must show me who they are talking to and must keep conversations appropriate.
-They are not ever allowed to use their real name or location online.

Each month my younger kids are allowed to earn things based on the grade they get at school. They are allowed to go through and pick out different rewards based on their dollar amount. If they get...
Mostly A's- they get to pick out something worth $50 to $75 at the end of the month.
Mostly B's- they get to pick out something worth $25 to $50
Mostly C's- they get to pick out something worth $10 to $24
Mostly D's- they get to pick out something worth $1 to $5
Mostly F's- they don't get to pick out anything.
I find this method motivates them throughout the month, because while they are working on homework they are also working towards something they want (like a toy, new item of clothing, or video game).

My older kids can earn an allowance. I tried to keep these chores relatively easy, to give younger kids a sense of accomplishment and to keep them motivated to do chores. Their chore options are:
Make your bed: $0.25 a day
Clean your room: $0.50 a day
Feed pets: $0.10 a pet (around $2.00 a day total for all the animals)
Put your laundry in your room: $0.10 a day
Take dirty laundry from bedrooms to laundry room: $0.10 a bedroom, per day
Pick up toys around the house: $0.75 a day

My kids are always welcome to have friends over. Friends can come over on school nights, but must be home at their house by curfew. We don't do 'sleepovers' on school nights. If my kids are grounded, they are still allowed to have friends over- but MUST get homework done with their friends. Sleepover rights for weekends and any days where there is not school the next day. These rights can be earned by:
-Being respectful to your peers and friends: If my kids are not kind to their friends while their friends are here, I won't allow them to continue to have friends over. This includes not stealing from friends, not cursing at them, and paying them back if they buy you food or something while in public. At school my kids cannot be bullying other children and any instances of bullying will prevent them from having sleepover rights with other friends.
-Being a good host: This means a lot of things, but basically I just want my kids to treat their guests with respect. Don't ignore them. Offer them food and drinks. Invite them to participate in activities. Don't be rude.
-Helping keep the house clean: If my kids are going to have a friend spend the night, their room needs to be clean. And they also need to clean up after their 'party' or 'sleepover' is finished (washing dishes from meals with their friends, cleaning up messes, etc).
-Being home by curfew with friends: If they are spending the night at my house with friends, they are still expected to be home by the previously agreed curfew.
-Following all other house rules: Friends are expected to follow house rules as well. If they don't, they aren't welcome over.

We have video games, computer, tablets, and TVs available. My kids can pick up any of these devices any time they want to. In order to earn the right to watch whatever show they want, play a video game, or use a computer or tablet they need to complete these basic tasks:
-Brush your teeth- pretty self explanatory.
-Finish homework, and yep- I do check.
-Have no detentions or suspensions at school (detentions and suspensions have all rights for electronics taken away).

If my child is suspended from school almost all rights are taken away from them on the days they are suspended. They do not have electronics, curfew is taken away, allowance cannot be earned that day, and the wifi will be locked.

House Rules For My Foster Kiddos Ages 1 to 5

I'm asked often what 'house rules' I have for my foster kids. I have different rules set for different age groups, but the youngest age group has the least-complicated set of rules. So I was going to start with their list, and each week following give another list of rules for another age group. Younger child need the sense of stability that comes from having rules. With kids 1 to 5, I keep our rules very simple. We have a set of rules we follow each day, and rewards for following those rules. The rules are fairly simple...

-Brush your teeth: If they are old enough to do it themselves, I remind them to. If they are young enough to need help, I'll help them. We do this every day. Our reward is a chewy vitamin (which ultimately seems like candy to them- but knocks out two necessary activities at one time).

-Comb your hair: I always brush or comb their hair for them, but if they sit down and are patient while I get it done, every day they can earn points to earn other things. If they comb their hair every day for a week they can earn 'hair color'- I use 'hair chalk' and color their hair any color they want. They really love this and it works well! If they comb their hair every day for a month, they can earn a new hat or headband (or other hair accessory).

-Get dressed: Once they are old enough, I let my kids pick out their own clothes and dress themselves as they can. As long as they do it, when I remind them, they can earn points each day. Every 12 points earns them a new clothing item of their choice from a store when we go shopping!

-No hitting, kicking, or biting: Each week I have a small tub of prize toys that I pull out (small vinyl animals, little stuffed animals, coloring books, art supplies, etc). As long as my kids have not hit, kicked, bit, punched, or physically hurt someone in the last week, they get to pick out a prize!

-No saying bad words: For each day my kids don't say a bad word they get a point. After 10 points they get to buy a new book of their choice.

-Be nice: Being nice covers everything. No calling other people names. No teasing animals. Share your things. Just be nice. This 'being nice' is lumped in with our 'hitting, kicking, and biting' rule. As long as they are nice, they will get a prize at the end of the week.

-No stealing: We have specific consequences for this one. If they steal something from a store or someone, they are required to bring it back and apologize. If they steal from me, they have to draw me a 'sorry picture' and return the item.

September Foster Parent Bucket List

Take A Hike In A Local Nature Reserve: There are small parks and nature serves all over the country, and they usually have trails ready to be hiked! Get some fresh air and let your child explore the autumn landscape by making a point to go on a little local adventure this month.

Buy And Play A New Educational Board Game: There are all kinds of awesome education board games out there. Local thrift shops and Goodwills are usually filled with them. Pick a subject your child needs to work on a bit (whether it's math or reading) and then find a game that you can play together. It's a fun way to promote education!

Take A Tour Of A Local Attraction: Every small city has some kind of local attraction. Whether it's the home of a historical figure, a small museum, or a local monument- you're sure to find some kind of small place worth visiting. Get to know your town's history and open up your kid's curiousity by visitng one of these places.

Send Surprise Mail To Siblings and Birth Parents: Mail is so much fun for kids to recieve and give away. Send out surprise letters and drawings (maybe even small packages) to your child's siblings and birth parents. It's a fun way to keep everyone connected.

Have Surprise Mail Sent To Your Kiddo: Once your child has shipped out their packages- contact local family and friends and ask if they could return the favor by surprising your child with a fun little letter or box to open.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Is Cutting or Self-Harming

Finding out that your child is cutting or causing some other kind of self-harm to themselves is a traumatic and difficult experience for any parent. But foster parents face the difficulty of maybe not being as close to their foster child as birth parents are. Which means we often find ourselves with the added stress of not truly knowing what to do. But by following a few of these simple steps- you'll make the transition to a healthier life easier on both of you.
Do not get mad: Whatever you do, I cannot stress this enough, do not get mad! If your child feels the need to hurt themselves, they are most likely facing a lot of ridicule in school or from some other outward source. So when you discover that your child has hurt themselves, do not get mad at them about it. Keep your calm. Right now, what they need more than anything else is love. Hate is only going to fuel their inner self-doubt that is making them be cruel to themselves.
Talk your Social Worker: Self-harm should not go unspoken of. Talk to your social worker, case worker, any therapists in the child's life, and the school counselor. All of these people can not only help your child- but help you. It's important to bring awareness to the subject. Do not simply push it under the rug. But also ask them to keep this private- and let the child come to them when they are ready. OR let your child know you need to let their case worker know. Keep the trust flowing, by keeping your child informed on what you are doing.
Talk to them about it: Ask meaningful questions. "When did you begin cutting?", "Why did you start?", "Why are you still self-mutilating?". These questions open up the opportunity to discuss issues your child may be facing in your home, with their birth family, or at school.
Listen to what they have to say: DO NOT interrupt them. Do not give advice. For the time being, simply listen to what they have to say. Let them know you understand and you care- and that you're going to help them get through this. But make sure your mouth is closed when theirs is open. And your ears and heart are ready to digest everything they have to say.
Offer your support and love: Let them know that you will both get through this struggle TOGETHER. This is not something they need to deal with alone. Be as understanding as possible. Let them know you love them, that you're worried about them, and that you know they're worth more than the actions they're doing right now.
Ask to take their 'tools': If your child comes to you with this issue- then they're asking for help. If you find out about it on your own, they may not be as willing to accept your help. But nevertheless you need to make an effort to take away their 'tools'. If your child is cutting, take away their razor. This can be applied to all kinds of self-mutilation. BUT prior to taking away the tools- ask if you can. Explain that you are worried and you want to help them, but the first step to healing is to take away the weapon. If they refuse to let you take it- discuss this with your social worker. Right now, causing more conflict is likely to cause your child to continue hurting themselves. So rather than causing an argument- have your case worker deal with this issue for you.
Offer up alternative ways of dealing with hurt: If your child is hurting themselves physically, it's a sign that they are hurting mentally- and they need to learn better ways of dealing with sadness, anger, and discontentment. Try offering these alternative methods to your child, to slowly create better habits.
  • Color with red pen or marker: If your child cuts, take away their razor and give them a red pen or marker. Tell them every time they think of cutting, to 'cut themselves' with these markers. They may not cause physical pain, but they give the illusion of blood. They're a good transitioning tool, to quitting cutting entirely- by replacing it with something similar. As time goes on, take away the red pen or marker when they are ready.
  • Paint angrily: Art is so healing. I promise! Let your child express themselves through painting or drawing or sculpting. Allow them to use curse words and make things that are angry or sad. Although you may not approve of their images- you're enlightening them to a better way of dealing with bad emotions- by putting their energy into something creative.
  • Write notes back and forth: Create a 'talk through it diary', where your child can write to you at any time they need to talk about ANYTHING. Tell them no judgment comes from the diary. You'll give advice only when they ask for it. But writing will give your child a way to work through emotions by figuring them out through vocalizing them.
Attend therapy and support groups: There are many free support groups for people dealing with self-mutilation. Make a point to attend these WITH your child. Go together. And go in with an open mind. It's a beautiful way to show your child they are not alone in their struggle- and to promote a healthy discussion from them.
Offer to always listen: No matter what, let your child know you are ALWAYS there and you ALWAYS will be. When they need someone to talk to, to cry on, or to figure things out with- you are there and ready with an open heart and mind.

How To Welcome A Foster Child Into Your Home

Last week I wrote an article detailing how I welcome teenage foster children into my home. But what do I do for younger kids? I do have a different way of welcoming smaller children into my home. Obviously the age difference does account for the fact I treat younger and older kids different. Both get the same love and respect- but younger kids are usually a lot more confused, but also tend to be a bit more eager to get to know their new surroundings. Just as with the teens, I recommend you follow your instinct. Do what works for you and the child. This is just a simple 'schedule' that I usually stick by with younger kids.

Bend Down, Smile, and Introduce Myself: I always bend down, or get on my knees (especially when dealing with toddlers and kids up to 7 or 8 years old. Why do I do this? It makes me appear smaller and much less threatening than a big scary adult. I smile really wide (usually out of my own excitement) and then introduce myself and tell the child my name.

Set Their Stuff In Their Room: When they first get dropped off, I try to set their stuff in their room (or have the case worker or person who brought the child, drop the stuff off for me). This gives the child a sense of security knowing their stuff is safe.

Show Them Around The House: And the first thing I always do (with any aged child) is to show them around the house. I give them a quick tour of every room. With younger kids I make a point to show them snacks they can eat in the kitchen, the kid's movies and DVD player in the livingroom, the library of children's books, and where our toy box (for everyone to share) is at.

Have A Snack: Once we're finished with the house tour, I'll offer them a snack. We'll sit down and talk for a while. I'll ask them questions to get to know them like "What is your favorite color?" and "What do you like to do for fun?". And I also make sure to ask if they have any questions for me. I also take a minute to try to explain to them, age-appropriately why they are in my home, and what we will do while they stay with me.

Do A Small Get-To-Know-Eachother Activity: Then I invite the kids to do a small activity with me. Often we'll make a snack- muffins or fruit salad or something kid-friendly and easy. Or we'll do a craft together. Just something to lighten the mood and make sure they know they'll have fun while they stay here.

Help Them Unpack: Later in the day, we'll take a while to unpack their stuff. I'll have them help me pick out places for where they want things to go. What drawers their shirts, pants, underwear, and socks should go in. Where to put any toys or little items they brought with. I also give them a 'Welcome Basket' with a few little items just for them to help welcome them into their new bedroom. To read more about welcome baskets visit __________

Let Them Know Your Plan For The Week: Around dinner time I will also sit them down and talk about what we'll do for the next week. I'll let them know if we're going to a doctor, or enrolling them in school, or going shopping for clothes and other things they need. I just give them a basic idea of what the next few days will entail. And each evening I make a point to remind them what they will be doing tomorrow- just to keep a semi-organized idea in their mind about what we will be doing. It also helps ease a bit of the stress about the 'unknown'.

Foster Child Welcome Basket Ideas (For Kids Ages 3 to 12)

I give a welcome basket to each child that comes into my home. I have them prepared ahead of time and ready to be handed out within the first day. For teens the baskets usually entail necessities such as deoderant, feminine products, and shaving cream. But for younger kids- they also need a few necessities. And I like to let them know that in my house they will have their own things (that they don't need to share) just to give them a sense of self-worth. So for each child that comes into my home, they recieve a little basket with a few knick-knacks. I have different baskets for toddlers, girls, and boys.

Toddler Foster Child Welcome Basket
Kid soap, shampoo, and conditioner
A kid's towel and wash cloth
A kid's tooth brush and tooth paste
A stuffed toy
A coloring book and crayons

Girl Foster Child Welcome Basket
Girl's soap, shampoo, and conditioner (fruity ones, or girl cartoon themed)
A new towel and wash cloth
A new girly tooth brush and tooth paste
A new hair brush and comb
Hair ties, hair clips, and headbands
A new stuffed toy
An art set
A piggy bank

Boy Foster Child Welcome Basket
Boy's soap, shampoo, and conditioner (cartoon themed or blue/green in color)
A new towel and wash cloth
A new boyish tooth brush and tooth paste
A new hair comb
A new stuffed toy
An art set
A piggy bank

August Foster Parent Bucket List

Attend A Local Fair or Carnival: State and county fairs are so much fun. They offer up an array of games and rides and a semi-affordable price. So let your kid run around and have a good time. It's a great way to just have fun together.

Go Camping: Whether you pitch a tent in your backyard, or rent a camper at a local park- camping is a fun family activity that allows you to teach fun survival skills- like cooking on a fire and gathering kindling.

Go School-Supplies Shopping: A lot of parents find school-supplies shopping to hectic to bring their kids along. But I feel like going shopping together allows your child to get excited about school. Let them pick out personalized notebooks and folders and other items. It's a great way to get them encouraged to do well this upcoming school year.

Visit A Local Farm or Petting Zoo: Petting zoos and farms allow your child to learn about where their food comes from. Dairy products and eggs and meat are staples in many households- but not all kids realize where these things are from. Educating your kid on farming practices opens a lot of doors for your kid. And letting them meet the animals that feed them is a great way to teach them how to be thankful for their food.

Attend A Craft Fair: Many small cities host craft fairs, and even small towns occassionally have a church or organization that puts one on. Taking the time to attend one with your child can teach them about small-business opportunities and allows them to see how creative endeavors can make great business ideas!

What To Do When Your Foster Child Comes Out As Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender

I will admit that I do not believe that straight is the only 'right' sexuality. And I respect others who have different opinions. But I believe when a child comes out as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender- there's only one appropriate thing to do...

Celebrate: Yep, be so so so happy for them! Because love is a beautiful thing, and it comes in all shapes and forms. Let them know that they are absolteuly beautiful the way they are, and you are ready to help them come out to the rest of the world [when they are ready] as well.

Get them involved in support groups: There are support groups for all kinds of people, and attending them can open your child's eyes to the amazing SIMILAR people around them. It can give them a sense of self-worth and pride. So attend them- together- and let your child know who they are is a-okay.

Attend LGBT events: There are Pride events all across the country, and they are so so much fun! Not all are child-friendly, so contact the organizers ahead of time and ask if there is an age limit. Find one appropriate for your child and attend an event together.

Discuss Safe Sex Practices: If you're like me, you've tried to talk to your teen foster child about safe sex. But, I do typically do my 'sex talk' in a 'straight talk' manner (meaning I often don't even think to mention gay or lesbian sex). When the time is appropriate sit down with your child and re-discuss safe sex practices with an emphasis on the kinds of sex your child will, someday, be participating in. For both sexes, this includes oral sex. For boys, anal sex should be discussed. Yes, these 'unconventional' discussions can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but the knowledge will stick- and it could spare them a lot of risk someday.

Reiterate Dating Rules: In my home homosexual teens and straight teens have the same exact dating rules. But, when a child comes out as homosexual (or bisexual), I of course let them know I support them- but I also let them know that the same dating rules apply.

Talk to your case worker: Let your case worker know as soon as you can. This can open up opportunities for support groups and appropriate therapy. If your child is transgender, it can help develope a plan for their chosen lifestyle- where they can be who they are with the help of you and others. Telling the case worker, also lets them document this for future foster homes. If your child is moved out of your home, your case worker can make an effort to find another home fit for an LGBT child.

Why My Teen Foster Children Have Cellphones

One of the first things I'll give a foster child over the age of 13, when they come into my home, is a cellphone. A prepaid one, with at least $10 in minutes included. And a lot of people ask why I feel it's so important that each of my teenage foster children have a cellphone- and why I make a point to buy each of them one.

First and foremost, it's the social norm. Foster kids shouldn't stand out of the crowd simply because they're in foster care. That isn't fair. Having a cellphone connects them to their friends and social life. They can text and call people. They can stay connected with friends from other schools they've attended. They can be a part of the 21st century teen life. A cellphone seems to be a staple of that, and I don't want any of my kids being left out.

My hidden agenda amongst it all is the fact that cellphones also allow them to stay safe. If they ever find themselves in trouble, they have a tool they can use to call 911. That is extremely important. I want my kids to be independent and to experience things- but I also want them to be safe.

Cellphones also allow them to stay in contact with me. In case they ever need me- whether they're at a school event, a friend's house, or even a birth family private visitation, I want them to be able to call me at any point when they may need my help or even a ride home.

Speaking of birth family- I want my foster kids to be able to continue to have good relationships with their siblings. A few phone calls or text messages can help keep kids in contact, and that is so so important in terms of keeping the family connected and together.

Amidst all of these things, a cellphone also promotes responsibility. They're made aware of the fact if it's broken- they need to earn another one. And if it's lost, the same rule applies. They need to be careful and responsible with it, or else they'll be busting their butt for another one.

And last, but not least, my kids have to work towards gaining more minutes. They can earn minutes by doing chores, getting good grades in school, doing positive actions, being involved in community and non-profit activities, and just generally showing poise. Cellphone minutes are a great way for me to encourage my kids to set goals and work towards rewards in life.

Bottomline: I basically give my kids cellphones for the same reason many birth parents do. They offer up a sense of security and motivation to work towards minutes. And they're just generally a good gift that my kids can appreciate.

How To Welcome A Teen Foster Child Into Your Home

As a teenager, being placed in a foster home can be overwhelming and stressful. And as a foster family, bringing a teen into your home can be very nerve-wracking. They're much more aware of their circumstances than younger children are. And making them comfortable amidst all of their stress can be difficult. But having a good first impression can truly make a big impact on your teen foster child. So, how do you go about doing that? First of all- follow your instict. Do what works for you! And what seems right at the time. Here's the schedule I usually stick to:

Introduce Yourself: First thing, I introduce myself with a big smile. I'm typically really excited to have a new addition in the family and it's difficult for me to hide that excitement. But it seems to make me approachable and I appear kind. So it seems to work!

Show Them Around The House: I do a quick house tour. I give them a basic tour of each room. In the livingroom I show them where to find the TV remote. In the kitchen I give them a quick idea of where they can find everything (but also let them know that they can dig through and find things as they need them). I make sure to show them other bedrooms- and to literally go through every room of the house. I try to end at their room.

Bring Their Stuff To Their Room: I always offer to carry the kid's things for them. Often they want to hold it themselves- so that's fine. But I do show them that I'm willing to help. When we finish with the house tour, I'll leave them at their room. I'll show them around quickly. And then I'll let them settle themselves in, without my snooping eyes.

Allow Them To Unpack, Get Comfy: I always let me child know, that if they feel like unpacking that they can. I let them know that everything in their room is theirs and that they can use whatever they need to. I also usually have a welcome basket, that I will give the teens with basic necessities. You can read Teen Foster Child Welcome Basket Ideas for more information on my welcome baskets for teens.

Bring In A Snack: After about an, hour- I'll knock on their door and ask to come in. Sometimes (very rarely) I'll get a "no". But most of the time I'll get a "yes". At this point I offer them snacks and sit down to talk a bit. If they say "no" I wait it out and come back a little later. When we talk, I basically tell them the truth. I give them the facts on what their case worker told me. I let them know all of the information I have regarding their placement. I let them know my plans for them, and that they can come to me if they need anything. And then we talk a bit about their interests. Do they play any sports in school? Is there anything I can get for them to make them feel more at-home? Is there a certain hobby that they'd like to participate in (video games, arts and crafts, etc) that I can buy items for?

Invite Them To Participate In A Small Activity: Once we've talked a bit, I'll invite them to a small activity. 99% of the time, the activity is making a meal. Usually dinner. We'll cook together and talk while we do so. I'll teach them a new recipe and then we'll sit down to eat.

Invite Them To Come To Meals: If you're child is not being so willing to participate, privacy is important too- and let them know that it's okay for them to be alone for a while. But make a point to always invite them to EVERY SINGLE meal. IF they don't come- bring food to them. Don't leave them left out.

Let Them Know Your Plan For The Week: At some point within the first day, sit them down and just give them a basic run-down of your plans for the week. Usually you'll have a doctor's appointment to attend, you'll need to enroll them in school, you might need to go shopping for necessity items for them- whatever you need to do, plan it out with them. Let them know what your plans are for the next week, so they know what to expect. It will give them a sense of ease knowing exactly what the next and hardest first transition days entail.

July Foster Parent Bucket List

Watch Fireworks on the 4th of July: Don't forget to experience the 4th! Fireworks are fun entertainment for people of all ages, and typically are free for most parts of the country. Find the perfect seat and make a point to sit out and enjoy them with your kiddo.

Visit A Local Aquarium/ Sea Life Center: Not all areas have these nearby, but if you do- make a point to visit one this month. They're a great way to teach your child about aquatic creatures and get them positively involved in marine biology.

Visit A Local Amusement Park: This is a bit of an investment, but one day at an amusement park can instill 100 new experiences in a child. From their first roller coaster ride, to trying new candy and foods, to playing a new carnival ride- it's so worth the investment. It will give your kiddo all sorts of new and fun experiences.

Attend A Soccer Game: Soccer isn't a huge sport in America, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth attending a game. Little league games often have free admission and will give your kid a chance to cheer on some of their local friends. Professional games are fun too- although they are a bit more costly.

Have A Movie Night: Take one night this month and dedicate it to movies. Make popcorn, buy snacks, set up a huge pile of pillows in front of your TV and let your kiddo(s) pick a flick or two to watch. It's a fun and great way to relax in the heat of the summer.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Steals Something From You

Foster children steal things for a variety of reasons. If they were deprived of nice things in the past, they may think stealing is an appropriate way to get valuable items. They also may be acting out, and testing their boundaries. The best way to handle this situation is by staying calm and talking it out. Vocalizing problems can open up opportunities for your child to bring up any issues they my have.

Ask them why they took the item: And then listen to their explanation. Maybe they really liked it, and wanted one for themselves. Maybe they didn't want you to have it because they were mad. Maybe they wanted to sell it because they don't have any money. Don't judge their reasoning. Just listen.

Ask them what they like about it: Ask them why they chose the item they did. What did they like about that item? Was it cool? Was it something they thought was worth a lot of money? Was it something that meant a lot to you? Once again- listen. Don't interrupt or lecture quite yet.

Explain how they can acquire one of their own (or if they sold it- how to get money): Now, prior to lecturing, explain to your child how they can get their own item. If it was a piece of jewelry- they could make one. And you'd like to get the supplies to! If it was something of yours they didn't want you to have- explain that physical things don't mean anything to you. Things like laughter and love mean more- and they can't take those things away (they only give those things to you!). If they sold it, explain how they can do chores for money. Or they can work together to save up money for the item they want to have.

Now You Can Lecture: NOW after all of those things, you can lecture your child on why stealing is not okay. It hurts peoples feelings. It breaks trust. It is not very nice. And there are other ways they can get the item they wanted- they don't need to steal.

Talk about how they can come to you when they need/want something: If your child feels as though they need money or a certain item- let them know that they can always come to you. And even if you may not be able to afford it right now, you both can work out a budget to save for the item so it can be bought in the future. You're not here to deprive your child of good things- and you want them to have things they want! Sometimes those things need to be earned- and stealing will not achieve that goal. So let them know you will work with them to get the things they want. You want them to have nice things too!

Teen Foster Child Welcome Basket Ideas

I create welcome baskets for each kid that comes in my home. I have them ready ahead of time to give them on their first day. I'll usually leave them on their bed and let them know that they can look through it at their leisure- and that everything inside is theirs and only theirs. It's basically filled with a collection of 'necessity items'. This post is dedicated to welcome baskets specifically for teens.

My teen girls basket includes:
Girly scented shampoo, conditioner, and soap
Female shaving cream and a set of razors
Girls' deoderant
A set of hair ties, bobby pins, and headbands
A new hair comb and brush
Nail clippers, a nail file, and tweezers
A box of tampons and pads
A pack of gum
A bottle of perfume
A new bath towel and wash cloth
Tooth brush and tooth paste
Prepaid cellphone and $10 phone card

My teen boys basket includes:
Guy brand shampoo, conditioner, and soap
Male shaving cream and a set of razors
Guy's deoderant
A new hair comb and brush
A pack of gum
A bottle of cologne
A new bath towel and wash cloth
A wallet
Tooth brush and tooth paste
Prepaid cellphone and $10 phone card

New Foster Child Check-List (What You'll Need To Buy In The First Week)

I created this list basically to give foster parents an idea of the investments they may need to make within the first week of a child coming into their home. This list basically covers the necessities, this such as clothes and school supplies. Depending on the age group, other things may also need bought (shaving cream, razors, feminine products, and deodorant for teens). But this list is a basic cover-all for kids ages 3 and up. The basic necessities you'll need to go shopping for within the first few days your child is in your home.

-Underwear (possibly bras)
-Shorts/ Skirts

Winter Wear (depending on your environment)
-Snow Pants
-Mittens/ Gloves

School Supplies
-Notebooks, Folders, Paper
-Pencils, Pens, Highlighters or Markers
-Gym Clothes

If you're looking for a list of things to buy prior to having a child placed in your home, read my Beginning Foster Child Check-List.

June Foster Parent Bucket List

Send The Birth Dad A Father's Day Gift: Don't forget the birth dad on Father's Day. Let your child pick out a gift, a card, (and wrap them on their own) for their dad. If you don't have visitation rights to see the father, mail the gift to them. It's a great way to show him their child still cares- while also letting your child openly discuss their father in a positive light.

Visit A Local Zoo: Zoos are so much fun! For kids they can be HUGE memories and extremely educational. Make a point to bring your child to a zoo this month. There are so many valuable discoveries that can be made there!

Visit A Local Pool or Water Park: When the weather gets hot, let your child cool off by participating in a popular summer tradition of going to a local pool or water park. Not only is it a great way for your kid to wear off some energy, it's an awesome way to just have genuine fun.

Take Swimming Lessons: During the summer many places open up swimming lessons for kids. Having your child attend swimming lessons is a great way to promote water safety, confidence, and independence in your kid. You can also teach your child to swim, yourself! Which is a great way to bond over learning a new activity together.

Attend A Baseball or Softball Game: Whether it's a little league game or a professional show-down, baseball and softball games are an American summertime tradition. They're a great way to spend an evening, and if you have a little sports star of your own- they can be very memorable.

What To Do When Your Foster Child Fails A Class

A big fat "F" on a report card is never a fun letter to see. As a parent it's your responsibility to make sure your child does well in school. And realizing you've failed that duty is a hard pill to swallow. But now you need to pick yourself up- and make things better. It's an easy task, but does take a bit of effort.

Talk to the teacher first: First things first, go and talk to the teacher- in person. Ask them why your child failed. Were they not finishing their homework? Did they not do well on tests? What was the issue? Ask the teacher if there is any extra credit they can do to change their grade. Also ask what you can do to help your child succeed in their class.

Talk to your child second: Now talk to your child. If they were not finishing their homework- as them why. If they weren't doing well on tests, ask them what they had trouble understanding. Let them know about extra credit activities (that they HAVE to complete). And let them know you're going to work with them to change that "F" to a higher grade together.

Create a 'get back on track' plan WITH your child: Sit your child down and tell them they are better than an "F" and together you need to create a plan to get back on track. Work together to create a list of ways you're going to change the grade. You will do extra credit. You'll finish your homework right after school each night. You'll study before a big test.

Implement a consequence for failing: Let your child know that when they have an F in a class, certain privilages will be taken away until they pull their score up. From now on when they have an F they will not be able to play on the xBox or go shopping with their friends. Do not prevent your child from attending extra curricular activities. Most school events impliment their own consequences for bad grades.

Also implement an encouragement for passing other classes (and this one): Let your child know there are rewards for good grades. In my home we have a grade pay system. Each month the child recieves payment for their good grades, and payments are deducted for bad grades. For each A they recieve $20. For B's they recieve $10. For C's they recieve $5. For D's they recieve nothing. And for every F $10 is subtracted from their total. This gives them something to work towards, and rewards them for good grades.

Explain why school is important: Talk to your kid about why school is so important. They're not only learning about reading and writing and math. They're also learning about responsibility, how to build a good work ethic, how to be self-motivated, and how to be reliable- which are all things they need to succeed in the work place later in life.

Find tutoring help if needed: If your child is failing a class that you yourself are not very good at helping with- hire a tutor to help your child. Tutors can be found on many sites online (including Craigslist "Gigs and Services" section). Schools can also give recommendations for tutors. And even fellow students can help tutor your child.

Beginning Foster Child Check-List (What You Can Get To Prepare Ahead Of Time)

This list is based on things you can prepare before actually having a child placed in your home. These simple little necessities aren't all required (some are), but I recommend all of them. You'll eventually use every single one of these. This is just a beginner's list. Basic things to have on hand. Obviously it doesn't cover everything, but it does help give a basic idea of the beginning budget a foster parent will need to set aside to prepare for a child to come into your home. This list does not cover infant necessities. This one is for children 3 and older.

Bedroom Furniture
-Dresser or Closet Hangers
-Desk or Book Shelf

-Pillow Case

Children's Medicines
-Pain/ Headache Remedies (Advil)
-Cough Drops/ Syrup
-Chest Congestion Rub (Vix Vapor Rub)
-Bug Bite Remedies

First Aid Supplies
-Children's Thermometer
-Rubbing Alcohol
-Gauze Pads, Bandage Wrap
-Liquid Charcoal

-Hair Brush/ Comb
-Hair Ties
-Wash Cloth

Basic Entertainment
-Art Supplies
-Board Games

At-Home School Supplies (Homework Helpers)
-Paper, Notebooks
-Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils
Wondering what you'll need to buy after a child comes into your home? Visit my New Foster Child Check-List to read my list of first-week necessity buys.