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BY JOHN DEGARMO, ED.D.

he moment a foster child comes to live with you, his whole world has changed. There are now different rules and different expectations to follow for him. Your house is a new environment for him. There is even a set of new parents for him. Everything he has known to be true is now different. These are significant changes in the child’s lifestyle. All decision making has been taken away. He is in your house against his own will, against his own choice. There is a good chance that any rules and expectations you have for your foster child will not be met. This is especially true in the first few days and weeks. This is a time to gain trust as well as simply get to know each other. It may take a while, but as a foster parent, you are in it for the long, tough haul. Make no mistake, it often times is tough. For many foster children, they have been given up on numerous times. You just might be the first adults in their lives who will not give up on them. They may resist you, and may resist all that you have to offer. This is normal for a foster child. Remember, the child may not want to be in your home, as it is not his own home. He may not want to live with your family when he comes to you, as it is not his family. You could be “the bad guy” in this situation, and you can’t expect a child to embrace you and your family immediately, or even to like you. It is essential that you build a positive relationship with your foster child. This will help to ease the transition, as well as contribute to the mental well-being of your foster child, let alone the dynamics of your own household. What is also important to remember is that foster children need structure, guidance and consistency, in all

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Rules and Expectations
areas. This includes the setting of rules and expectations in your household. In order for your household to run smoothly, you must set some rules in place, and let your foster children know what expectations you have of them. Perhaps the most important element to setting rules and expectations, though, is to remember where your foster child came from. The child may never have had rules of any kind in his home. Your foster child may not have had the responsibility of doing chores. Homework may be something completely foreign to them, as it may not have been expected or enforced. Manners may not have been taught or modeled in his family. Even personal hygiene may not have been established before he came to live with you. With this in mind, it is important to set up some rules and expectations, though, early on with your foster child. As expectations and rules may make or break your foster child, you need to be realistic with your expectations from the child. You also need to ensure that your family’s vales and moral structure does not change. You probably do not accept violent behavior, disrespectful attitudes, profanity or destruction of property within your home. Yet, many foster children have not been brought up in this manner, and you may find that your foster child does not understand your values and morals. One of your biggest challenges as a foster parent will be to remain patient with your foster child’s progress as you teach him the kind of behavior you expect from him in your home, and not insist upon it all at once. If you do demand the type of behavior that you expect from your own
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family, you may push your foster child even further away. Work on the behaviors first that you find most important. When your foster child has improved with one expectation, then it is time to begin focusing on another. All children enjoy praise from the adults in their lives. Sadly, your foster child may never have received praise before, or had the opportunity to be successful in a given task. When you feel the time is ready, sit down with your foster child and let him know of your expectations. Be specific, yet simple at the same time, in your explanation of your rules and expectations, ensuring that your foster child understands what you would like him to do, and how he should behave. Make sure that they are appropriate for his age, as well as ability level. These expectations must be reasonable, as he might not be able to handle too much, due to his previous living environment. Do not expect perfection, as his abilities might be quite low. There will be times he will resist, or not perform as you would like. This is fairly normal, and probable. Instead, look for opportunities to praise your foster child when he does something positive. When establishing rules in your household with your foster child, it is important that you continue to stick to the rules you already have established. Foster children will shake up your household like nothing else. Therefore, continuing to adhere to the rules that you normally have will keep consistency with your family members. Speaking of consistency, it is vital that you are consistent with your rules. Children need consistency in all areas of their lives, and foster children especially so. They may test you, and seek to see if you are consistent. After all, they may have lived

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with your Foster Child
in a home where there was no consistency in any aspect of their life. You might just be the first constant in their lives, and the setting of expectations and rules will be a positive example of what they should expect later on in their lives. Your rules and expectations are paving the way for their future successes, whether it is college, the work force, and in their adult lives. ❁
BY JOHN DEGARMO, ED.D.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John DeGarmo, Ed.D., has been a foster parent for 10 years, now, and he and his wife have had more than 25 children come through their home. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on fostering, entitled “Responding to the Needs of Foster Children in Rural Schools.” DeGarmo is completing his book, “Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story,” and will publish it in the summer of 2012. In his spare time, DeGarmo enjoys gardening, traveling the world and performing in front of others. He can be contacted at ilikeboom@hotmail.com.

[ kids in waiting ]
Adrian, 16, loves to swim and ride bikes. This young man also enjoys participating in Special Olympics events. He participates in group and family activities, and can be talkative and friendly. Adrian is in the ninth grade and benefits from an Individualized Education Plan. He participates in speech therapy and counseling, which may need to continue after placement. It is believed that he will not live independently as an adult, but he can have a great life. The caseworker will consider all family types, and seeks parents willing to participate in a transitional plan prior to placement. Financial assistance may be available for adoption-related services. For New Mexico children, both homestudied and non-homestudied New Mexico families are encouraged to inquire; only homestudied families from other states should do. For more information, contact The Adoption Exchange at (800) 451-5246. Child ID 9734

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