Know what you’re getting into and how to prepare! Click here to hear from teens and parents about their experiences adjusting to life together, including typical issues and how to handle them.
Already a Foster Parent?
The New York State Citizens’ Committee for Children offers training at its annual conference and in other settings. Click here for more info.
ACS’s Circle of Support offers monthly support groups for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents throughout New York City. Meetings are organized and run by parents, and cover a range of topics. Dinner and childcare are provided.
To find a group near you, click here. (Note: These groups are dependent on parent participation. They come and go, depending on parent interest. If you discover that the group near you has gone dormant, you can try another group, or consider trying to revive it yourself.)
To read a story about some of the parents in Circle of Support, click here.
For Teens: How to Adjust to a New Family
Cori Herzig, a therapist in Santa Rosa, California, explains some good techniques for adjusting to a new family—and how you know when it’s just not working out.
Q: How can you get to know a new foster family?
A: A major part of adjusting to a family is learning their routine. Not just how they wash the dishes or when they eat, but how open they are and what’s OK to say around them. Learn when you can be more relaxed and what are signs you should keep your mouth shut. You know with your own family: “When dad comes in with that look on his face, I’m not going to bring up that I need money.” Or, “When mom is stirring her coffee a certain way, she’s stressed.”
Noticing when is a good time to talk and when isn’t will help you get the response you want when you open up. If you open up at the wrong moment, you risk a feeling of rejection which can snowball into feeling misunderstood.
You can also remember that it’s a typical thing for teens to feel misunderstood by their families. Teens have so much going on inside, and all teens wonder, “What’s my place?” Add to that having to adjust to a foster home, and it’s going to be hard to figure out what’s what.
Q: How do know if you’re trusting too much or not enough?
A: When I was young, my mother became a foster parent to teenage girls. Some would come in and call her “mom” immediately and tell their life story to everyone in the household. Other girls that had been burned in their last placement or family of origin weren’t going to tell anybody anything. If you’re at one of those extremes, it’s going to be harder for you to get close to people.
If you’re opening up too quickly, you might feel overexposed or vulnerable, or you might be overwhelming others. Paying attention to your own body signals, in particular your breathing, can help. If you’re talking really fast and breathing shallow, you might be talking out of fear, not a desire to be known. You can always slow down, breathe and trust yourself to go at a slower pace.
On the other end, if you hear people telling you, “It’s hard to get to know you,” or you feel apart from the family, you might want to try opening up more. The desire to be known is a healthy one.
Q: What are some signs that this isn’t a good placement for you?
A: There are some obvious signs, like somebody is being verbally or physically abusive, or neglectful. Those are clearly not OK.
If you are making efforts to get to know people and you keep trying to communicate and work on it, and you keep feeling criticized or like you’re in a hole and feeling like, “No matter what I do I can’t get these people to like me,” I don’t think you should stay in that situation. Talk to social worker and say, “I’ve been trying.” Tell the social worker everything you’ve tried, and say, “This isn’t working. This feels bad for me.”
If Your Foster Home is Abusive
If you’re being abused in a foster home, don’t keep it to yourself. It can be scary to report abuse and take the risk of moving to a new home. It takes a lot of courage. But you deserve to live in a safe home, and there are supportive and loving foster parents out there. If you’re being abused, tell your lawyer and your social worker. If they are not responding, call their supervisors. Or talk to another adult you trust, like a teacher, coach, or therapist. Keep reaching out until you find someone who believes and supports you. You can also call:
New York Child Abuse Hotline
The National Child Abuse Hotline
The ACS Parents' and Children's Rights Helpline