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Wisconsin Foster Parent Learns About Trauma from 5-year-old

I wanted to become a foster parent for as long as I can remember. My dream was to foster a younger child under the age of ten. I am a single foster parent with no children of my own, so I safely assumed fostering would come with many challenges. I didn't realize how important it would be to have a team behind me—a dedicated team of professionals with many years of experience working with foster children. Until I received a lengthy email on the first day of school, I also had no idea what I would need from my child's teacher. 

Being a foster parent will bring challenges and rewards.

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I honestly did not know how much kids were hurting and how many disappointments most had. The day I called CCR to get information about becoming a foster parent was the first I heard about childhood trauma and trauma-informed care. They explained the long-term effects of neglect and abuse on younger children and what that can look like for foster parents. I gained insight into my strengths and how my skills and personal experiences might contribute to helping children heal. I learned that love alone would not be enough, and I would struggle to succeed without proper support.

I became a foster parent and got my first placement quickly.

I didn't know how long it might take to get a call, and I worried if I was ready to take on the responsibility of parenting someone else's child. Self-doubt took over. Although my case manager said my feelings were "normal," I questioned myself. The call came much sooner than I anticipated!

Jaydeen was a tiny 5-year-old that 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. It was a lot to witness initially, and I immediately depended on my case manager and Jaydeen's teacher to reassure me. 

My foster child's first day of school was filled with challenges. 

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I drove Jaydeen 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 with the other children in the classroom. 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, and school. 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 on day one. I received an email detailing Jaydeen's first day; it was insightful and gave me 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. It escalated when I asked her to stop, and she kept running. After using the bathroom, students hung up their items, and Jaydeen did this beautifully.

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 negative behaviors worked well at times.

During playtime, Jaydeen 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 ran away. We gently asked her to stop and explained that it was not safe, and she calmed down a bit. 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 played with her in another center, but she started hitting her. 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.

The day was long, but there were many positive behaviors.

During clean-up time, Jaydeen 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 returned to the room with the timer and helped clean up the classroom. She got ready to go and lined up nicely with the other kids. She waited quietly and patiently for you to pick her up.

foster parent training

The safety of all children is paramount.

I know this is new to her, and you 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. Feel free to let me know if I can help in any way.

WOW! WOW! Her first day at a new school brought out so many behaviors. More than I had witnessed at home. These are the things that CCR taught in the foster parent training. Teachers and seasoned foster parents expect actions like these from kids with significant trauma, especially severely neglected children. Jaydeen's teacher and my case manager saw it from day one. I am so blessed that both women are part of my team on my foster parenting journey. 

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 to have a disruptive student in the classroom.

Several weeks have passed, and Jaydeen is making progress daily 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, I truly believe that kids can heal from trauma!

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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