Many children in foster care will be coming from environments and homes where school was not a focus, nor was education stressed as much of a
concern. Foster parents need to be both prepared for this, and compassionate for it, as well, in what could be a difficult time after school each day.
Your foster child may not be used to doing homework, may have a difficult time being focused upon it, may suffer from learning disabilities, or may
simply resist spending time doing work after school. Indeed, he may experience feelings of frustration if he is behind in his school work and learning.
One of the keys to success between the foster child and foster parent regarding homework is to set reasonable and realistic expectations for the
child. Find out where the child’s learning ability and level of knowledge is at, and work with him at this level. Talk to the child’s teachers about the child’
s abilities, and determine if any accommodations need to be made. This is not to say that foster parents should not motivate the child to succeed at a
higher level. To be sure, foster parents should encourage their foster child to set goals and expectations, as these caretakers may be the only adults
who have ever given the child any confidence and encouragement in school. Never the less, foster parents should not push a child beyond his
abilities, as it will only frustrate all involved even more so. Instead, talk to him about what success means for him, and help him to set goals for
himself. Celebrate every success, no matter how small it may be.
Foster children will likely have a difficult time concentrate on their homework, as they instead focus on simply wanting to go home, and the many
emotional distractions that come with being a foster child. To help him with homework time, prepare a quiet area for him to do his work, if possible.
Find a place that is away from distractions, such as television, video games, and other media that may interrupt his concentration. Perhaps consider
setting up “an office” for the older students, complete with desk, materials, and even a bulletin board with lists of upcoming projects and school due
dates. This office might be in the corner of the kitchen, living room, or their own bedroom. Foster parents might even stop phone calls during this
time, as well. Set up a regular time each day for him to do his homework, so he will know what to expect when he comes home from school. If the
adults in the house have projects to work on, or books to read, they may wish to do so during this time, and in view of the child, so that the student
sees that homework and reading is a normal part of life, setting the correct atmosphere for the child.
When it is time for the foster student to begin his homework, foster parents should review with him what he is to work on. Go over the assignments
with the child, ensuring that he understands what needs to be done, that the directions are clear, and what is expected of him. Ask if he has any
questions, and provide assistance if he does. As many children in foster care struggle with their reading and math skills, he may need your help with
studying for tests, reading aloud, and other school tasks. If the student has work in several different subjects, help him to organize and prioritize what
needs to be done. When there are those days when he has no homework, encourage him to read a book of his choice, either aloud to you, or by
himself. Foster children, like all children, can never read enough, and many have never had an adult or parent that they could read to. If the child is
young, read a book to him, and try to do so daily, as many children in foster care are behind in their reading skills.
Help him to set short term and long term goals for the student. Perhaps consider creating a reward system for him. For those children in foster care
who are younger, a colorful chart or poster can be created, in which the days of the week are represented, and the homework he has for each class
and each day. When one assignment is completed, the foster parent can place a sticker on the chart, measuring his progress. For those foster
students who are older, they could be rewarded for accomplishing their homework and their goals with a later weekend bedtime or curfew, more
television time, or some other incentive that he might appreciate. It might also be wise to allow the student to have breaks, if there is a lot of school
work to be accomplished in one afternoon. When the foster child is finished with all homework and projects, teach him how to place it into a separate
folder, one that is used for work to be turned in, and remind the student each morning to turn in all work.