Mark, Dodge County

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WI Foster Parent Learns About Trauma

I wanted to become a foster parent for as long as I can remember. My dream was to foster a younger child in elementary school. I had a basic understanding of childhood trauma and knew fostering would come with challenges. I didn't realize how important it would be to have a team behind me. Along with a great agency, a teacher who understood trauma would be invaluable. Without a doubt, I love being a foster parent, but I could never do this work alone.

What I learned about being a foster parent.

I can honestly say I had no idea how much kids were hurting. Moreover, I didn't know much about trauma. The day I called CCR to get information about becoming a foster parent was the first I heard about childhood trauma. They explained the long-term effects of neglect and abuse on younger children and what that can look like for foster parents. Most importantly, I realized that if I were to become a foster parent, I would need to be educated in trauma-informed care, and be supported 24/7 to be successful in helping foster kids heal and grow.

What I learned during that first phone call with CCR was enlightening and educational. Additionally, I gained insight into my strengths and what I had to offer kids in foster care. My skills and personal experiences would contribute significantly to helping children heal. I learned that love alone would not be enough. I would need a team at CCR and a team at my foster child's school. I would need a teacher that understood how to teach and manage a child with severe trauma.

I became a foster parent in 3 months. 

To say I was nervous about accepting my first placement would be an understatement. Self-doubt took over. Although my case manager said my feelings were "normal," I questioned myself.

Jaydeen was a tiny 5-year-old and came to my home wide-eyed and full of energy. Lots of energy! Without a doubt, it wasn't always positive energy. The first few days, okay months were a challenge. Jaydeen lacked any semblance of structure. She struggled to listen, and there were no boundaries with play, mealtime, or bedtime. I had my work cut out for me, and I needed a professional team behind me.

The first day of school was a disaster. Or was it?

Teacher bonds with a foster child

I drove her to school with extreme trepidation and nearly cried when I left her. We had been together for just a few days. I wondered if the teacher could handle her in the classroom with the other children. Jaydeen struggled in all the ways CCR told me a child her age might. 

In addition to living with me, a stranger, Jaydeen, had been torn from family, friends, school, and her teacher. I prayed her teacher would have a successful first day with her. I didn't anticipate the trauma-informed care principles her teacher would apply. I'm not sure why I was surprised, but the email detailing Jaydeen's first day was insightful and gave me so much hope.

Good evening; I wanted to give you an idea of how Jaydeen's day went.

When Jaydeen came to school, she did a great job lining up and following the class into school. When we get into school, frog stickers are on the floor the students stand on while waiting to use the bathroom. Jaydeen was having trouble standing on the frog and began running down the hallway. When I asked her to stop, it escalated, and she kept running. After using the bathroom, students hang up their items. Jaydeen did this just fine.

Class begins with circle time. Jaydeen did not sit in the circle but instead played at a table with some manipulatives. I put them out for her in advance, anticipating that sitting still on her first day may be challenging. (I've seen this before) Unfortunately, during our circle time, she began playing in all centers and throwing toys at us to get our attention. We continued with circle time, ignoring the behavior, and she stopped. Her behavior adjustment was very encouraging.

Ignoring the behavior worked well at times.

During playtime, Jaydeen seemed to be very revved up. She ran around the room and screamed on and off very loudly. She knocked kids' toys over and watched them react. When I approached her, she would run away. We gently asked her to stop and explained that it was not safe, and she calmed down a bit but then continued to jump up and down. When Jaydeen is NOT getting a reaction or attention, she will stop some negative behavior.

I had another adult in my room, and she asked Jaydeen to play a game. She settled down for about 10 minutes and played a few games in the quiet area. After that, she played calmly with a few of the other students. She was enjoying her playtime. The adult then played with her in another center, but she started hitting her and pulling her hair. I tried to engage her in more calming activities, but that wasn't easy. She did manage to work nicely in the art center for a brief time with me.

Kindergarten teacher reading to foster child

The day was long and presented many challenges.

I told the class I would set the timer to clean up. When the timer finished, the children cleaned up. Jaydeen began knocking over things and did not clean up. She took the timer and ran out the door down the hallway. She came back and said, "I hid the timer." I didn't react and said it was time to clean up and go home. Jaydeen came back to the room with the timer. She then tried to get her water bottle but was again instructed to clean up things she knocked over. I told her she could have the water after she picked it up. Subsequently, she picked up and got her water bottle.

She got ready to go and lined up nicely with the other kids. She waited quietly and patiently for you to pick her up.

The safety of all children is paramount.

My aide and I are concerned about her safety and wouldn't want her to hurt herself or others. In turn, I want to inform you how she is doing. I know this is new to her, and I will continue to use tools to encourage positive behavior. However, please understand that the safety of all children is paramount. I am hopeful that she will get into a routine with consistency and time.

I hope this email isn't too overwhelming. Let me know if I can help in any way.

WOW! WOW! Exactly what I learned about trauma and the behaviors and emotions it creates. These are the things that CCR taught in the foster parent training. Teachers and foster parents expect actions like these from kids with significant trauma, especially severely neglected children. Jaydeen's teacher is fantastic, and I am so blessed that she is part of my team on this journey with me.

Her teacher did everything right!

What I appreciate most is that her teacher looked for positive ways to redirect Jaydeen. Also, trauma-informed care practices allowed many positive outcomes throughout the school day. Most importantly, she continued with patience and encouragement. I can't imagine how hard it must be having a disruptive student in the classroom.

Several weeks have passed, and Jaydeen is making progress each day at home and school. Her teacher communicates with me regularly so that we are both on the same page. Trauma is ugly. Trauma is real. Most importantly, kids can heal from trauma!

Trust the information CCR shares. The staff is transparent and honest. Foster children need love but need more than basic parenting skills.

Please get in touch with CCR or call anytime. The staff will help anyone explore how to become a foster parent. 800-799-0450


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