As foster and adoptive parents, we are no strangers to pain — our own and that of our children. We live and breathe it far more often than we would like. We recognize that our children’s pain is their trauma and is part of their story, and that it is often part of the healing process. We understand that pain is part of walking this journey, picking up pieces, healing hurts and doing our best with the heaviness of it all.
Recently, I came across some information about something some staff had said at my child’s school and the pain of it broke my heart. As a teacher, I completely understand we have students that, some days, make us feel like quitting by 3:30. I’ve been part of the profession for 26 years and the challenges grow each and every year.
With that being said, as a mom I was hurt, angry and wanted to address the comment with the principal as soon as possible. Yet, as I sat with it, I realized acting on my initial impulse would, at best, effect one or two people and most likely cloud future positive relationships.
I had to fight through that mama bear side that goes right to, “How dare you?” or my favorite, “You wanna go…let’s go!” I had to think big picture: What will help not only my child, but other children at the school with difficult behaviors?
To be completely honest, I don’t approach all situations that involve my children with this grace and understanding, but school is far too important to get it wrong. My children will learn from these adults for years to come and I want to know I did my part in creating a trauma-informed approach and a trauma-informed school.
I met with my child’s teachers prior to him starting school and shared his back story, shared resources, established home/school routines and connections, shared his behavior plan and created a schedule with sensory breaks alongside the teacher. Still, the comments I learned of informed me of further work I needed to do.
I quickly realized that I had forgotten about the other staff who would work with my child — the office ladies, the health room attendant and the numerous aides he would encounter each day. Understanding the enormous value of meeting face-to-face and sharing his story I had neglected to include other important adults.
It’s realistic to meet with your child’s regular and special education teacher, school counselor, psychologist and principal. It’s not realistic to meet with the numerous staff members who will work in some capacity with your child. This is where we, as foster parents, need to take full advantage of the meetings you do have. It’s critical to stress that the information you are sharing get to the other staff members involved with your child. You can also find out if there is a specific aide who is working with your child, and then can e-mail, call or meet with that individual.
When you speak about your children — sharing their back story, showing all that you are doing at home, supporting the home/school connection — you speak from the heart. This usually changes someone’s heart in the process.
Think of as big a picture as possible. Remember other people do not have your experiences or background. Think about how you can be a part of the solution to make your child’s school more trauma-informed. Speak to as many hearts as possible in your child’s school, and work on changing one heart at a time.
– Betsy DuKatz, adoptive parent and prior foster parent
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.