YIPPEE! KIDS GO BACK TO SCHOOL, OH NO! TROUBLE NOW BEGINS†
BY JO ANN WENTZEL
Summer is waning; foster parents feel excitement at the prospect of kids going back to school. But should they? Summer was busy with kids around more often; fewer breaks and times of silence for foster parents. Noise and kids everywhere, so the return of kids to school means peace will reign supreme between the hours of 8am and 3pm. Well, not exactly. How soon they forget!
School means getting back to schedules which include more things to do and less sleep for foster parents. It means constant interruptions on the phone instead of in person. It means numerous lists, dates, and new people to remember and unfortunately, it means problems.
Oh, Iím sorry, have I disillusioned you? Do you have those perfect foster kids IĎve been told about, but never actually seen? You know the ones who wake up bright and early, dress without coaxing, bounce down the steps with a smile on their face and a great attitude. Those are the same kids who eat breakfast without an argument, wear warm hats to cover their ears, have all their school stuff in a neat pile the night before, and leave you momís and dadís with a kind word and a hug. Iím speaking of kids who actually go to class on time and participate, do all their homework, and score Aís on tests. Where are these kids anyway?
Letís return to reality, shall we? My former foster kids were of the Ďother kindí. The ones that had to be, hmmm, Ďconvincedí to get out of bed. Mine were of the variety that descended the stairs and snarled at everyone in sight. I had those that greeted me by hissing like a snake for no apparent reason or those to whom I became the enemy overnight. Still unsure what I did in my sleep.
Mine were constantly, but of course, Ďaccidentallyí, missing the bus. This resulted in an extra 10 miles of driving we could add to the already hundreds of miles a week. And when they finally got there, the real fun began. Calls from school were more regular than meals at our house. There were the ones to let us know so and so never showed up. Detours were commonplace. Calls to tell us to come get a kid out of their sight because once again he had caused disruption in the classroom. They were not impressed with the fact he was actually in the classroom. But I was impressed. We made deals with the schools to come and de-escalate our kids ourselves, which made for constant calls. We even made our own once a week to check up on homework, attendance, and behavior status of all our kids.
Trying to get anyone to do homework on time and properly was as challenging as winning an Olympic medal. Somehow we managed; we all made admirable attempts and most times attained some degree of success. School-time means the juggling act is mastered where you take x numbers of kids and multiply it by x number of activities and try to make it all fit into x number of hours. You fit in counselors, doctors, and groups, between school meetings, concerts, and sports. You also need to feed them, care for them, and talk to them. Foster parents are amazing.
Your demands and work increases while your time and sanity decrease. To help things run smoothly, live by schedules and calendars. Be consistent in your expectations and consequences since this is a great time saver. Donít take anyoneís word for anything unless you check it out for yourself.
Remember you are professional parents and as such deserve some consideration as to school -scheduled meetings and conference times. We had to explain life with several challenging kids in one household to the schools. They were fond of scheduling meetings at 7:30 am, which is one of the worse times ever for most foster parents. Your time is as valuable as any other professionalsí time. Many foster parents have kids at home to care for, maybe their own or possibly the foster kids who are ill or suspended. Stick to your guns for a better time when you just cannot make it. They all may leave for school in the morning, but they often return before their scheduled times. You never really know how many hours you have that are kid-free. It is very tricky.
So, donít be too quick to have summer end. When youíre doing that dance that all parents secretly do when kids return to school, enjoy it since it may be your calmest moment from here on till the first day of school next year.
Foster parents; I know how tough it is to keep up with kids who often go to different schools. Iím aware of how many tasks your school day includes. Itís a challenge but, you can do it. So take that long bubble bath and relax while you still can. Eat your Wheaties and gear up for the challenge that school-time brings. Most of all have faith in yourself and you will conquer the many problems of school days. And thanks for fostering!