Teach children that they do NOT have to answer every question. What is your child's business is his/her business alone!
Q: Someone may ask, "Why didn't your mom want you?" or "Do you know your REAL mom?"
A: Your foster/adoptive child may answer, "I don't want to talk about this right now", "I don't share personal information", "I am wanted by my family", "I know who my parents are, and they love me very much" or simply walk away. A reader recently shared that a response of, "I am wanted and loved by more than one family," worked for her as a child.
Q: Someone may ask, "Why are you in foster care?"
A: Your foster child may answer, "I need to live where it's safe right now" or again, just walk away.
Q: Someone may ask, "Why were you adopted?"
A: Your adoptive child may answer, "My parents adopted me because they love me."Teach your child to use humor. Sometimes a quick wit can end an uncomfortable discussion.
Q: Someone may ask, "Why don't you look like your mom?" or "Why don't you look like your sister/brother?"
A: Your child may answer with, "Because I'm better looking!"
Q: Someone may ask, "What does it feel like to be adopted?"
A: Your child may answer with, "What does it feel like not to be adopted?" Answer honestly and simply. No need to add any unasked for information.
Q: "Why do you have a new last name?"
A: Your child may answer with, "Because I was adopted, so my name changed." Then walk away. No need to add into this discussion with information about birthparents not completing the reunification process. Or, "My step-dad adopted me, so I changed my name to be the same as my mom and dad's."
Q: "Do you miss or think about your birth parents?"
A: Your child may answer with, "Yes, I do. Please don't ask me about this, I don't want to talk about it right now."
Using a Cover Story
Cover Stories are just that - stories to provide cover or protection. Using cover stories is not about telling lies, it's about keeping information private that could be used to tease and harass. By doing so we are trying to create the best possible environment for our children.
Some foster children choose to refer to their foster parents as "mom and dad" while at school, even if they don't call their foster parents "mom and dad" at home. Another option is referring to their foster parents as "aunt or uncle". This works for some kids, but if they move into a well-known foster home, the kids at school will catch on quickly.
If your foster child's birth parent(s) is/are in prison, teach your child to say, "My mom/dad is unable to come to visits right now." or "My mom/dad is out of town and I can't wait to see him/her again." As long as your child understands the truth there is no harm in keeping these facts within your family and within the case.
Teach your children to be choosy in who they do share information with. Friends are important, especially with older children. Let your children know that if he/she does choose to share more personal information with people to make sure that they know this person well and have established a friendship over a period of time.
Reason's to Practice Answering Questions
Help the children to establish boundaries. Due to past neglect and abuse, especially sexual abuse; some children feel that they are literally "everyones property". It is important that children learn that their body and life is not available to everyones use and/or knowledge.
Teach the difference between privacy and secrecy. Privacy is about respecting yourself enough to set boundaries, allowing only those who need to know information, into your business. Secrecy is about shame and guilt, things instilled into some children's lives due to past neglect and abuse.
Protect the child. We as parents are to protect our children from further abuse and harassment. With too much information floating around, our foster/adoptive children could be setting themselves up for further maltreatment.
There is a stigma attached to being in foster care or with being adopted. We have to arm our children so that they may deal with any situation with confidence and pride.
10 Things to Do Before Sending a Foster or Adopted Child Back-to-School
Are you ready to send the kids back-to-school? What about any new child(ren) that have been placed in your home either because of adoption or foster care? Here is a handy checklist to help you send them back-to-school with less stress.
1. Health Medical Card – with foster care or a state adoption you should have received one. Check the date on the card for your child’s last physical. You will also see dates for the child's last dental and eye appointments. Keep these appointments up to date.Make sure you have the child's immunization records and that they are up to date. You will need the immunization records in order to enroll any child in school in the United States. Healthy kids perform better in school.
2. Paperwork - Upon enrollment you will find several forms to fill out. Go prepared and make sure you have everything on this checklist for foster and adoptive children.
3. Know the Child's Education Plan. Does the child have an Individual Education Plan(IEP) for special education, behavior, and/or speech classes? Foster parents or pre-adoptive parents can not sign an IEP, only the child’s birth parent or an Education Advocate can sign IEP’s or make any changes to the plan. Questions to ask:Can you attend conferences? Sign permission slips for field trips? Can the child sign up to play sports? Each state is different – so ask and get a release allowing you to sign for such activities.Can the birth parents attend conferences with you? This would be a great way to mentor a birth family by modeling how to act at conferences, ask questions, and advocate for a child.
4. Practice Address and Phone Numbers. Children new to your home need to know this for safety and for school. Make sure they know your full name, how to spell it correctly, and where you work.Practice writing the address and phone number. Have an index card in the child's backpack with the needed information.
5. Practice the Route to School or to the Bus Stop. Show the child the route they are to take and make sure it is a safe route. Walk or bike it with them. Practice skills such as:Crossing the street Yielding to traffic Stopping at stop signs Locking up bikes Knowing the correct bus numberDo not assume that your child knows these things. Practice, even if the child says they know. We have discovered that most of the children that tell us that they know how to ride a bike safely, in reality do not know. Always ask them to demonstrate their skills. Try making it a game instead of a test. Go on a family bike ride. See how they handle traffic. Don’t forget helmets!
6. Attend Open House or Tour School Building. You and your child will be able to meet the teachers and will be able to tour the school. If school is already in session ask for a tour and to visit the child’s room when you enroll. I prefer to enroll him/her on one day, show the child his/her classroom, and have them begin the next day. I like to end the trip with a lunch date out. It gives him/her a chance to digest everything before actually starting school.
7. Discuss Safe Rides. Make sure the child knows who they can get into a car with and who they can not.Remember neighbors, social workers (for foster children or pre-adoptive children), and close relatives.Teach them to look for ID/name tags on people claiming to be social workers.Discuss who not to catch a ride from. Include strangers and anyone you’d rather not have your child be alone with – we all have these people in our neighborhoods.It may be difficult but you will also need to discuss getting into cars with birth parents. If the children have supervised visitation or no visitation, the children should not get into a car with birth family. Talk with the social workers about the plan and the best way to discuss this with the children.
8. Practice Opening Lockers. This is such an embarrassing thing for kids – being late to class or to gym because they can't open their lockers. Use the time you have at enrollment or at an open house to practice. Get a lock at home and practice.
9. Be Involved with the Child’s Education and with the School. This is great for foster parents too. Volunteer to be a room parent and help plan holiday parties for the child’s class. If you don’t have time to attend school parties, bake cookies or send a bag of candy. Go on field trips or volunteer to come in and read to the kids. Most kids love to see their parents or care givers being involved in their activities.
10. Create a Cover Story. A cover story is something that the kids can tell others about why they are now in your home. This may also be needed for kids who are newly adopted. Children adopted internationally may be teased for an ethnic name, different appearance, or an accent. Foster children adopted over a summer may have to deal with a new last name and answering questions about why they could not go back home to birth parents.
For more information on cover stories read, Teaching Foster/Adoptive Children How to Answer Questions.