Getting to know a potential foster kid up for adoption

My husband and I became licensed foster/adoptive parents earlier this year. We’ve had two meetings with an eleven-year old boy who needs a foster family and is available for adoption. So far, everything has gone smoothly and we’ve gotten along, but I don’t feel like we’ve really gotten to know each other very well.

This weekend we’re having an overnight visit and after this visit, we’re both (my husband and I, and the child) supposed to decide if we think it’s a good fit.

I need some advice on how to get to know this kid a little better, and for him to know us a little better, before making a decision of this magnitude. Once we say yes, the state’s goal for him becomes adoption and he’ll live with us for 6 months before we’re able to adopt.

What is his history? Was he just removed from his parents’ custody or has he been in foster care for some time? Are there assessments about his personality in the court records?

I don’t think you can really get to know a kid in such a short period of time. I think fostering for 6 mos to a year before deciding to adopt makes much more sense.

He’s been in foster care for most of his life, in and out of it since he was a toddler. His personality is noted as shy and well-behaved (which he has been). He does well in school and generally doesn’t act out. He likes baseball. This is our first placement, so I’ve been completely out of my comfort zone and have no frame of reference for it. I should probably just go with my gut answer of yes to taking him and not try to force getting to know him (and him to know us) so quickly. We’ll get to know him over the six months as we spend more time with him, provided he wants to stay with us.

How much experience do you have with kids?

Look up family-friendly activities in your city to get an idea of possibilities. Try to find activities which don’t have fixed times to avoid any stress of having to arrive or leave at certain times. I would suggest something not very structured, like wandering around a science museum, rather than something more structured, like watching a baseball game. A fun day might be to start at something like a science museum, wander to someplace nearby for lunch, and then hang around a park and play with some of the toys you got from the museum’s gift shop. That gives you guys lots of time together, but also with lots of time where he can go off on his own when he wants. It’ll give you lots of time to get to know each other in a relaxed, natural environment.

That’s perfect. There’s actually an event going on this weekend near us (think craft show, flea market, and farm equipment display all in one - we live in rural america lol) that we were thinking we could take him to. It runs all weekend, so there’s no time pressure and he can freely look about. We figured we’d cook dinner at home and then maybe watch a movie or play some games.

I would be careful not to force myself on him. You say that he’s shy, so the closer you try to get to him the further he may back away, which is natural for a shy person. You could ask him if he wants to go to a movie or a ball game, or the science museum and see what he says. If he wants to see a movie pick out one that everyone will enjoy watching. Most of all just see how he interacts to the outside world, and other kids, especially in public. You want to spot any personality quirks so you can decide how, and if, you want to deal with them in the long run.

is there a therapist involved ? here in ca the state will usually pay for one … just make sure hes not emotionally closed off …. when I was in a foster home I met kids that were "quiet and well behaved "that were emotionally dead to the point of being robotic……….

I don’t know if he’s currently in therapy, but I will ask. I do think therapy will be a good idea regardless just because if you’ve been in foster care for years, you’re not going to be as likely to develop a permanent attachment to people.

Do you know how many placements he has been in? Getting bumped around from home to home can do a number on kids, and they are usually very reluctant to trust. Another reason to take it slow if that is the case. I think games are also a good idea–something simple like Sorry or Life or Trouble. It gives everyone something to do rather than feel the pressure to get to know each other. And take him to a baseball game if you can find one out in the sticks :wink:
BTW serious kudos to you and your husband for taking on a child in need. The world needs more people like you.

For getting to know him, especially if he is quiet, try to practise leaving out value judgement from your statements, even the positive. This is quite difficult at first, because we are used to giving kids constant feedback on if what they are doing is good or bad. Instead, try to simply note that you see what he does.

“I noticed that you used green in that drawing.”

instead of:

“Beautiful flower!”

Saying “beautiful flower” creates the possibility that the flower could not have been beautiful, and would you still like him then?

Think ahead for some ways you can implement this that are relevant to your activities & his age.

It can really help kids to open up. He might feel like he’s auditioning, especially if, as you say, he’s a good kid. You want to show that you do not judge just based on how he performs his goodness, you notice him simply as he is. I hope that makes sense.

I was taught this by the psychologist I worked with in a children’s home and it really, really works for getting kids to open up and be themselves and feel secure. It’s tricky at first, because you want to shout out how wonderful he is all the time. But give it a try. I hope it helps :slight_smile:

Seconded. It’s tough enough to raise them from zygotes, trying to overcome 11 years of uneven management is no small undertaking.

You never said–what experience do you have with kids?

Was he ever a toss-back, i.e. part of a failed adaption; or just became available for adaption b/c parental rights finally got terminated? Because failed adaption is hard on a child.
Don’t be surprised if he’s hard to trust or extremely well-behaved in the beginning, then acting out later.
If you take this kid in, and then change your mind 6 months later, it will be worst for him than if you never take him in.

That makes perfect sense, I will try to be watchful for that.

I have a niece and nephew who are around his age that I’ve spent a decent amount of time with. Otherwise my experience is pretty limited to babysitting when I was younger and interactions with my cousins and their kids which isn’t as frequent.

The parental rights were terminated earlier this year. He’s been in a few placements, some for a couple years at at time.

And yes, that’s why I want to be sure we mean it when we say yes even though we will need the six months to really get to know each other. Every time a kid is taken from a foster home, it causes more trauma and the last thing I want to do is cause this kid more harm. In our training with the state, they really drove home that any time a kid is taken from a placement, regardless of the reasoning, it usually causes trauma and makes it that much harder for them to trust someone down the road.

I know he’s been in several homes, but he’s been in a few places for a couple years at a time. I imagine it will take him a long time to really trust us.

We played games the first time we met, and I like how it takes the pressure off. We’ll probably do that again this weekend. When I was a kid I loved doing weekly game nights, so it would be nice if we could start that tradition with him.

The closest baseball game would be 2 hours away lol. I will be looking into getting him onto a little league team or something though.

You know, that’s probably perfect. No competition or suspected favoritism to complicate stuff.

Just my own humble opinion. Since he is, by your comments, reasonably well-behaved, how bad can it be to have him for six months? By that time, you should have a pretty clear idea of how life with him will be. Best of luck.

My kids have been the joys of my life and I can only wish the same for you.

The state is requiring us to do a number of visits first before deciding. The answer is yes on our end, and as long as it’s yes on his end, I imagine he’ll be placed with us in the next few weeks. I think the reasoning for the visits first is that if a child is placed with us and it didn’t work out for whatever reason, that causes a pretty major trauma to the child. So they’re trying to give us and him time to feel each other out.

What’s your house like from a child’s perspective. I suppose you have a room for him? Do you have any pets or animals at your house? Animals are always good, as kids bond easily to them. When you’re home, be sure he has time to himself to relax. Even biological kids don’t hang out with their parents 24/7.

One way to make the transition to your home more go smoothly is to pick up some sort of food you need to prepare from that craft festival–like maybe pick up a cake mix from a booth. When you get home, he can help you make it, then there’s a little downtime while it’s cooking, then you are together when you eat it, then onto something else.

Of course, TV is always good as long as it’s not the only activity. It can be a good way to interact. I’m sure many of us are relieved when we got to a stranger’s house where the TV’s on and we can sit and watch with the group instead of having to interact right away. I’m guessing it would be the same for him. Do you have cable? See what baseball games are on. I’m guessing he might be a Cardinal fan. If you can watch streaming, you can subscribe to MLB.tv to get all the games even if you can’t get them on TV. If you’re not baseball fans, start getting interested. If this does work out, it will be a great thing for you to do together. Many families have fond memories of being sports fans together. You don’t have to go wild and be fanatics right away. And don’t be surprised if his interest in baseball is just casual or a passing fad. That happens too.

One option might be to have some of the nieces and nephews at the craft fair, but have it be causal. You guys can cross paths and if the kids get along, you can hang out more together. If they don’t, then you guys wander on your own. If they get along really great, then you could even invite everyone back for dinner or whatever.