back to school tips for foster parents and teachers

Youth in the foster care system inherently face setbacks time and time again in the educational system. Frequent moves and constant changes cause disruptions in their lives which can negatively affect their academic success.

A new school year can cause additional stress in foster youth, but foster parents and teachers can play an active role in helping these youth through this transition. We wanted to share a few tips you can use to help your foster teen.

  1. Gently remind your youth that going to a new school can be intimidating but also fun and exciting. Your foster teen can learn and develop new relationships. Reassure them you will be there every step of the way. 
  2. Connect with your foster youth’s teacher and establish a relationship. Attend “meet the teacher” night or another event to introduce yourself. Schedule a meeting to explain the teen’s background, any challenges they may have in the classroom, and how a teacher can best support them. Ask the teacher what they might need from you. Throughout the year, email the teacher to check on your youth’s behavior.
  3. Ask your foster youth’s teacher about upcoming projects that might be difficult to complete. Activities that involve families, family trees, or even Mother’s Day projects can be highly challenging for youth who have been removed from their homes. Discuss with the teacher other ways to complete the project. 
  4. Especially in lower grades, youth in foster care will undoubtedly get questions from peers about their living situation. Role-play with your youth and guide them on how to answer classmates’ questions. 
  5. Look for opportunities for your youth to connect with other teens and form relationships. Attend a birthday party or family fun night so your foster youth can connect with other teens their age in a safe space. Many youth in foster care struggle with fitting in or making friends, so counseling or therapy may help your youth build self-confidence. 
  6. Most importantly, talk with your teen – communication is key. Ask about their school day. Learn about what they are going through and what obstacles they face at school.

Are you a teacher? Here’s how you can support youth in foster care:

  1. Teachers have a lot on their plates, but they should prepare their students and help youth in foster care feel welcome. Educators need to keep in mind it may take time for an adoptive or foster teen to catch up with their peers. 
  2. Foster parents and teachers must work together to ensure youth in foster care have a smooth transition to the new year. Give reports on the youth’s behavior and participation. And most of all, don’t give up. Over time, small steps can make a world of difference to a struggling youth. 

Support foster youth on their education journey.