How to Explain a Move to a Child in Foster Care

by | May 21, 2018 | Foster Care

Live About– Carrie Craft

There are many aspects of fostering that are extremely difficult to emotionally handle as a foster parent. Helping a child in foster care adjust to a new placement, explaining to a foster child that you are not an adoptive resource, and transitioning a child back with birth family. While family reunification is the goal, it’s still an emotional drain as we become attached to the children. Explaining to a child in foster care that they are moving to another foster home due to a disruption is another tough one to handle.

The process of explaining the move is one that will take several days as it’s important that the child never blames himself for the disruption.

When we had to disrupt on one of our foster placements, we had already parented the child for well over a year. The move was due to irresolvable conflicts with those involved with the case and we all felt it was in the best interest of all involved if the child was moved to a new foster home. Since the child was available for adoption, he was transitioned to a foster to adopt foster home. Telling him that he was moving was something I personally dreaded as I knew he was going to be afraid and take the news hard.

After calling for advice from a trusted colleague, I started the week long process of telling him that he was moving.

1. I was instructed to read the book, In My Heart, a week before telling the child about the move.

2. A few days later, if the child is moving to a foster to adopt home, explain adoption. Read books such as, Let’s Talk About It: Adoption, by Mr. Fred Rogers.

If the child is moving to another foster home, read Maybe Days and explain foster care.

3. Ask the social workers if the child can spend a respite weekend with the new foster family. Advocate for a period of transition. Make sure that the child has the opportunity to spend a couple of respite weekends with the new family so that he does not feel like he is moving to the home of complete strangers, adding to his fear and trauma.

4. After the respite weekend, read Welcome Home Forever Child, by Christine Mitchell. This children’s book explains the feelings that many adoptive parents have about their older adopted child and the joy they feel about being a new family. It is Christian based, so keep that in mind if that does not fit into your belief system. Take some time to explain foster care adoption to the child.

5. Finally, break the news to the child that he will be moving. Be sure to focus on the move being due to the foster home’s needs and not the child being in the wrong. Say, “We need to focus on our family right now, but we are very concerned for you too.”

6. If it’s appropriate you may be able to visit the child after he is placed in the new home. It all depends on how the new family feels about it and if the team of workers agrees too. You could explain to the child that things are now reversed, he lived with you and visited the other family for respite, he will now live there and visit you for respite.

7. Provide closure for the placement by having some simple event to celebrate time in your home. Perhaps a dinner out at the child’s choice of restaurant or a visit to the zoo or other place that was a favorite for the child.

8. Make sure to have the child’s files completely up to date for the new placement.

9. Also, update the child’s lifebook with pictures and information.

10. Make sure that all of the child’s belongings travel with him to his new placement.

Again, make sure that the child understands that the move is not his fault. Reiterate this message in a number of ways to help confirm it in his mind.

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