What Does My Foster Child Call Me? Communication With Foster Children

What does my foster child call me?

Introducing Yourself to a Foster Child

Mr. Ms. Mrs. first name, last name, Dad, Mom, such a confusing topic for foster parents

So how do you introduce yourself to a foster child? A topic often discussed in 'Extra Special Parents' core training is what your foster child calls you when placed with your family. This can often be confusing in the beginning because you are unfamiliar with the child, and they may not initially be comfortable with you or in your home. That is fine. It may take time for them to warm up to you and your family. If you begin the foster care journey by assigning titles such as "Mom" or "Dad," there may be uneasiness and confusion.

When the child is first placed in your home, it is ideal to introduce yourself by the name you would like them to call you. First impressions begin as soon as the case manager and/or the licensing agency arrive in the house with the foster child. While addressing the case manager and the child, use a gentle and pleasant tone to welcome them. Present yourself by using the name you would like your foster child to use when referring to you, and let them know your role in their life at this time.

The child may not be familiar with the foster care system due to age, developmental stage, or cognitive delays. It could also be their first experience with social services, and they may not understand the foster care system or what foster parents do.

Do not force the relationship by requiring that the child address you as "Mom" or "Dad," which may be confusing. As a substitute, ask that they call you "Miss" or "Mister" in addition to your first name (Mr. John or Mrs. Kathy.) The word "Mom" could be a trigger as it could refer to the person who abused or neglected them. In comparison, "Dad" may be the person who abandoned his family or is incarcerated. You don't want to remind the child of parents who were unable to care for them.

Additionally, the foster child should not be expected to call other family members "sister" or "brother". They should call the other household members by their first name. Allow your foster child to address you and your family by your first name if you and the child feel comfortable with this decision.

A few other name options could be offered to the child on how to address you upon initial placement. Giving the child options also gives them a sense of control. It will give them the ability to make their own decisions that they may not have had in their previous placement or with their birth parents.

If there are other household members, it is essential to introduce them or allow each person to introduce themselves individually. Having all family members present themselves at one time may be overwhelming, depending on the number of members in the family. Other ways to introduce yourself may be "Aunt" or "Uncle" or a nickname your family may call you.

As the amount of time the child is placed at your home increases, the rapport grows stronger. With that being said, it is ok to change the titles as the relationship grows as long as you and the child have the conversation. A great movie that demonstrates this will is "Instant Family". When Mark Wahlberg gets called "Dad" from his foster child and his wife Rose Byrne is jealous that he got the title first. Here is a link to the movie if you are looking for an excellent film for all the family (PG-13).   Rent this movie here: Instant Family .  or check out our review here .

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