Transitioning foster children back to their family home is a difficult process for everyone involved. Regardless of their ages, the children will act out if they have been in the foster home for more than a few weeks. The way they act out will depend on their maturity level. Younger children may start throwing temper tantrums and have difficulty sleeping at night that may include nightmares. If the child was recently potty trained, it could be undone by the transitioning process. All children tend to treat their foster parents with increasing disrespect, as their return home time grows nearer. They are less likely to obey requests or follow house rules. You may hear, “You are not my real parent,” with increasing frequency.
Try to continue being supportive of the return home. Realize that the acting out isn’t about you or your home. The children are acting out because they are confused and have mixed feelings about returning home. They may worry that if they go home everything will be the same as before and then they will be removed again. If they have been in foster care for a long time, they may worry about losing their relationship with their foster parents. If your foster children are not already in counseling you may want to begin before the transition home begins. Even young children can have play therapy to work through some of their mixed feelings.
If you have not previously developed a relationship with your foster child’s birth family, it might be time to begin. Perhaps you can meet with them to drop off or pick up the child from overnight visitation. It sometimes helps children transition when they see the people they love the most together and getting along. If you are able to develop a positive relationship with the parents, they may allow the children to see you or call you once they return home. This can be very helpful to the children who have become very attached to their foster families. You may also be able to help with advice if the family is struggling with an issue such as discipline or schoolwork.
Rocking a Traumatized Child’s Tantrum Away
Photo Credit Julia Fuller 2007