Letter to my child’s teacher
This letter was prepared by Fostering Hope with our experience and looking at similar letters including To my Teacher … A memo from a child in foster care, Feb 14 2017, Jeanette Miller, Australian Childhood Foundation: https://professionals.childhood.org.au/prosody/2017/02/to-my-teacher/ and various blogs from Ransom for Israel http://www.ransomforisrael.com/category/foster-care/. We hope it is both helpful to read and a useful tool to have conversations with your child’s teachers this year.
I hope you had a lovely summer and break. This year you will have my child in your classroom and there are a couple of things you need to know!
Xx is our foster son, he came into our home at age … He has lived with xx other families. He has siblings in other homes/schools/. He still sees his birth parents xx. Being in out of home care is a big part of his life and ours. In addition to us, he has a Child Safety Officer and we are supported by an out of home care worker. Both these adults will be part of his school journey.
Legally, he is a guardian of the state, this means we can make most day to day decisions for him, but sometimes we will need to check with his Child Safety Officer and need a bit of time to get permission or approval.
You are in a powerful position to send a message about being a child in care to both our child and other children in the class and their parents. His peers and other parents do not need to know he is in care, this is his (and our) story to tell people who need to know. You can treasure his story and journey with us, and we’d love you to be on his team. For confidentiality reasons there are also just lots of things we don’t know or can’t share about his life.
Some school assignments may be hard for us. We aren’t asking you to change the assignment, but we would like some advanced warning and some creativity of how we can adapt the assignment to fit his circumstances. For example,
· Family tree
· Baby pictures
· Birth or young infancy stories
· Inherited traits
· Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, grandparent’s days and other family celebrations
Xx is enthusiastic about everything and loves school/loves playing/is very social … He also tries hard to please. Due to his early life experiences,
· He carries a lot of stress. When more stress is added, you may see him …. He usually responds well when you …
· He struggles to remember boundaries and you may see him …
· He struggles when there aren’t boundaries, so playtimes and free choosing. He usually responds well when you … Giving him a space with boundaries that is his to go to and feel safe may work.
· He has some developmental gaps that make learning hard.
· He is emotionally younger than his developmental age.
· He struggles with transitions, so moving between activities and rooms may be hard for him.
· Classrooms are often stimulating and exciting spaces for regular kids, but for my son this may all be over stimulating. We don’t expect you to change the space for him, but either creating a safe space for him or that he always sits at the same table and chair when he can see the door, or he is allowed to leave the classroom to a certain tree or bench, will help him regulate himself when he feels out of control.
· He is still learning how to play with other kids. The last thing we want is for him to hurt anyone else. He is learning with us and professionals, please keep us informed as to how he is going and if there is anything further we can do to help him or other parents and children.
· There may be times when he just needs to run! Please plan for this and make an agreement with him and us what that might look like.
· We will work with you to develop his Individual Education Plan and some things we have found in the past are,
o Beginning and ending each day with the same routine
o Sitting him the same seat or spot on the mat, so he has consistency
o Having a (or a couple of tasks) you can ask him to do in the moment if you can see him escalating (taking books to the library, taking a message to the office, etc)
Another thing that you can really help with is making the connection that school is safe and fun. These early years of his education, as you know, will be the foundation of how he sees education and himself. When he feels safe and his nervous system is calm then he can play, learn and connect.
We would love you to be on our team with our child, the way he is going to heal from trauma and trust adults and other kids, is for us to all work together. We have found a great lens to see him through is Hope and Curiosity. Hope that he can have a better life and Curiosity about what is going on behind the behaviour. This is never to excuse the behaviour, but to find out why it is happening and naming this up and then teaching him appropriate ways of dealing with that same situation.
Our family has learnt a lot about the impact of trauma and in-utero environment since becoming carers and would love to share any ideas and resources that may be helpful, so please just ask! Here are some ideas we have found helpful,
Creating Trauma informed Classrooms: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/files/large/4b9294d4e0fc351
Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T Forbes
The Boy who was raised by a dog, by Dr Bruce Perry
Australian Childhood Foundation’s SMART Training (designed for teachers with the Department of Education in South Australia)
Emerging Minds: https://emergingminds.com.au/
We also have access to great books, resources and training if you are interested in finding out more about trauma or out of home care. We look forward to getting to know you and working together.