Haven't posted in awhile because I was getting a little discouraged about the lack of "traffic" on my blog. Please if you are a foster parent or know one, send them this way!
An unrestricted foster home can be difficult for your biological children, as I mentioned in previous posts, but there are strategies to help them adjust to the changes that will occur when new children move in and out. Obviously the transition for foster children is going to be difficult as well. Here are some things I did (and some I wish I had done) to help transitions easier for every child in your house.
Keep your biological children "in the loop"- As soon as you know a change will be occurring (someone moving out, someone moving in) let your kids know. This will give them the opportunity to become emotionally prepared for the change. If you have done foster care for awhile, you have certainly experienced an abrupt change in your family dynamics. A social worker calls, and suddenly one of your kids is packing and leaving, or the phone rings, and within a couple of hours, you are opening your door to meet a new child. These sudden upheavals are difficult for adults and will certainly be hard for children. So, as soon as you know, let them know. The only exception to this might be if the foster child doesn't know yet (i.e. the social worker wants to tell him/her at their next meeting). Of course you know your children best, and some children may have such difficulty with change that it is best they hear the news at the last minute.
Plan a party - If possible, have a "going-away" party for your foster child/children. It can be as simple or extravagant as time allows, or as you want it. You can invite family and friends and have a big party or just simply have ice cream sundaes with just the kids. The point is to have some sort of transitional activity to make it easier for all children involved. In a place I worked where children came and went, they always had a big poster board and everyone wrote inspirational notes to the the child who was leaving. Staples has a picture poster that you can have made for only $9.99 with a picture of the family and everyone can write notes to the foster child on the border (a "Sharpie" writes well on it). This way your foster child can have something to remember you, and your children can feel good about preparing the "going-away" present (have them choose the picture or draw something if you just do a poster board).
Have your kids help their foster siblings make "memory-boxes" when they first move in. Then have the foster children save things (ticket stubs, pictures, etc.) and take the box with them when they leave. Or if your children are "crafty" and would enjoy doing so, have them make the box, collect things for the foster child and then present it to him/her when it is time to move.
You can even have a "welcome party" when new children come. Have everybody sit together and introduce themselves. There are a lot of ideas for "Ice-breaker" games online that can be fun...here is link to one page- http://www.creativekidsathome.com/games/ice_breaker_games/
Scrapbooking-This is something I wish we could have done (or wish I had thought of it then...) Cell phones didn't come equipped with cameras and taking pictures was a little more difficult (go to the store, buy film, take it back to get processed, etc.) Today most people have cameras that can hook to their computers and phones that are capable of connecting to an e-mail so that pictures can be printed out right at home. Take a lot of pictures of your foster kids. Make it a family project to put together a scrapbook (or just a photo album if you don't have the time or inclination to be a scrapbooker...) The memories of foster children who have moved on will be invaluable later and will help your children to "remember the good times." Just remember the rules of "confidentiality" and be careful with putting pictures on the internet.
Christmas Ornaments - This is something I did do: on the day we put up our tree, I gave each child their own ornament. This way every child could feel that they were contributing something to the tree, instead of it just being our "family's" tree. When the kids moved, I gave them the ornaments to take to their new homes to remember us. I wish I had thought of this...I would have had each child make a picture frame (out of popsicle sticks or "foamy") and put a picture of each child on the tree. I would have kept those for my children.
Just a few ideas...hopefully my readers can put up some more.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and is having fun getting ready for back-to-school!