Foster care and school

By Monica Baudendistel, Larimer County Foster Parent

School is starting! I know of several parents that cannot wait for summer vacation to end.  I’m torn on the fact that four out of the six kids in my home will be gone all day long. I will miss them. With only two at home and watching my two-year-old grandson during the day, my house is going to be so quiet. There won’t be any tattling, fighting, arguing, but also not as much laughter. No more parks, zoos, museums and walks during the daytime hours. In other words, I’m sure going to miss them, all of them.

As foster parents and kinship parents, it is our responsibility to make sure that the children are educated and receive the maximum amount of help to get their education, so they can grow into adults that will be productive and have bright futures within the community. I’ve thought about my experience raising my daughters who are now adults as well as the kids in foster care who I’ve cared for. I wanted to share these experiences and advice with others.

Communicate and stay organized

I talk with the teachers of each child as often as I can. The most important piece of advice that I can give to anyone that has a foster child, biological child, relative that you’re raising or any school-age child is to have strong communication skills. I’m deaf and have a cochlear implant, and I maintain that I have the ability to listen better than a lot of hearing adults. I pay attention to the person speaking, looking at their face for clues as to what they are saying to me. I can read lips and am sensitive to different facial expressions like raising of the eyebrows pursing of the lips.

This year, the school start and end schedules have changed and it’s going to take some adjusting to regulate the routines. I use the parental portal and also have the kids’ Google accounts so that I can check what they are doing while online at school. This helps me organize our routines and help check homework.  If a child has no homework, then we have the children read or practice handwriting during “homework hour.”

Take advantage of special services

When I first began foster care, I didn’t really think much about the education part of it. My daughters are all in their thirties. Back when they started preschool at the age of four, there weren’t assessments done to see what things that they might need to have help with. My, how things have changed.

Now, through early childhood assessment programs that are done through the school district, children can attend two years of preschool if they qualify and certain learning and disabilities are focused on and maximum assistance for each individual child is given.

My son was assessed for early childhood intervention at the age of three because he has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Due to difficulty with speech, once he started at school, he was assigned a speech therapist. He is about to begin in sixth grade and the services, speech and resource, that started in Early Child Intervention are still available. His grades show the help he has gotten and his social abilities have improved and continue to do so.

Our schools in the Thompson school district have several valuable academic programs, like the Thompson Dual Language Immersion, available for free. The school district also offers a resource for students that need extra assistance or if the student has special needs, speech and occupational therapies.

Include parents

When it comes time for parent-teacher conference, we find out the schedule of the parent or another relative of each child because we want to share the conferences with them. It’s important to both the child and the teacher. This also gives the parent a clue as to how their child is doing in school and what to work on when they return home. I try to include parents in as many school activities as possible, because they can feel left out.  It also helps me get to know the parents better plus the child benefits because they know that there are many people that truly care about their education.

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