It wasn’t too long ago when you were preparing your child in care for a new school year. Now, it’s time to meet with his teachers to discuss his progress. Here are a few parent teacher conference tips for foster parents that we hope will make your life a little easier this school year.
An invitation from the school to attend a parent teacher conference can be seen as an opportunity to help your child in care be successful. This is a great time to gain a better understanding of how he learns and interacts in a school setting and how you as a foster parent can help him with any challenges he may face.
Parent Teacher Conference Tips for Foster Parents – Be Prepared
Due to the Educational Stability law, it is the goal to keep foster children in their familiar school settings so they can continue to thrive and grow. If that cannot happen for any reason (e.g., the child in care’s safety is at stake), transportation will be arranged through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) within five business days. The principal and school district will initially be made aware of your child in care’s unique situation. As a foster parent, you will have a letter that identifies you as the resource parent. It will be handy for you to bring the letter with you to the parent teacher conference since it contains all of your specific information as a resource parent as well as the information about your child in care. You will receive one letter for every child in care that resides in your home.
Sharing is, of course, necessary; however, it is important to know what to share and what not to share during these meetings. It’s essential to stick to information pertaining only to your foster child’s education. If for any reason the conversation may be steering towards subjects more personal, it is your responsibility to re-establish the task at hand. Typically, there are no other students or parents near you in the conference. If for any reason you see people who are not privy to know details concerning your child in care, be mindful not to discuss information around them. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it may unfortunately expose your child in care to teasing and bullying, which can in turn make his already challenging journey more challenging.
You may be wondering if your foster child’s biological parent will be attending the conference – and if not, why? There are many reasons why the biological parent of your foster child may not attend the parent teacher conference. It could be due to incarceration, a situation of domestic abuse or she may not have the physical ability to attend. However, there is a possibility that your child in care’s biological parent may want to attend the parent teacher conference as well. This can be arranged through your child in care’s caseworker, and each situation varies. When all of the appropriate steps are followed and pre-planned properly, all interested parties will get a report of the child in care’s progress. The caseworker will work with you as a resource parent, as well as the biological parent, for a satisfactory outcome.
If you have communication with your child in care’s biological parent and she would like to know how the conference went, discussing the meeting will keep her involved and informed.
Even though your child in care may not be attending the conference, he can and should still be involved. An article from Baby Center discusses the importance of preparation for the meeting, including involving your child in care before it takes place. Prior to your meeting with his teacher, ask him how he’s doing in school. Ask if he likes his teacher, if he understands the curriculum and if there is anything he wants to know from his teacher but hasn’t asked yet. Write down his questions as well as yours, and you’ll be ready to meet the conference head on.
If your child in care is a part of an IEP (Individualized Education Program), he will follow a specialized curriculum meant to help him grow in specific areas. It is your responsibility to monitor his progress in this program. While at the parent teacher conference, make sure you ask his teacher if specific issues need to be addressed immediately. If your foster child is in therapy and you receive information that is vital to his treatment, you may want to pass that information on to his therapist.
Parent Teacher Conference Tips for Foster Parents – Communicate and Stay Connected
Depending on the case, some extreme cases of behavioral issues may be reported to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) directly by the school. Make sure you stay in constant communication with the child’s caseworker so you can stay informed at all times.
To secure an open line of communication with the school, you may want to request a progress report on a monthly basis. This will give you an opportunity to deal with any concerns, should they arise, sooner rather than later. It’s still very early in the school year; if any pressing issues arise, the quicker you address them, the better.
If you have any questions about parent teacher conferences or anything concerning foster care in New Jersey, please feel free to visit our website at www.fafsonline.org, or reach out to one of our FAFS Family Advocates (FFAs) at 1.800.222.0047.
Treating your foster child just as you would your biological child shows him his success is just as important. It is vital you know that, as a foster parent, you can be involved. When you prove to him how essential his education is through supporting him, you will give your foster child the stability he needs. Remember, you are more than just a foster parent – you are your child in care’s key to a successful year at school and in life.
Salendria Mabrey is a Communication and Development Associate at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.