The days of hoops and sticks are long gone. Kids have electronics and they know how to contact people they want. They could have a basic cell phone or something more advanced that enables video calling or social media. It might be scary and feel overwhelming for a new foster kid in your house to have access to the vast expanse of internet communication but if you have a good strategy for managing things you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and avoid unnecessary conflicts with the child or bio family. We’ve outlined strategies for navigating calls and best practices to improve calls once you’ve got your bearings straight.
You don’t get to make all of the rules regarding contact so think through the areas below to avoid a shock when your kiddo is suddenly doing a group video call with 4 adults you’ve never met before only 2 hours after they moved into your house. Note: that call might be COMPLETELY safe for them and a great way for them to experience normalcy but if you aren’t ready for that type of situation it will send you into a big panic as a foster parent.
Know the Situation
Make sure you are aware of what electronics the foster children have in their possession and what ways they can contact others through it (calls, video call apps, social media). Don’t forget to think about technology access they could have at school or friends as well so you aren’t naive to ways they can connect with others. If there is prohibited contact with certain people due to a threat of danger you need to understand potential alleyways that could occur and find reasonable methods that can reduce danger to the child.
What is allowed?
First, check with the caseworker about what has already been agreed to and what expectations everyone has. This can take the heat off of you if there is a communication situation you aren’t comfortable with. The caseworker can help ground you on what level of social media access is reasonable and give you context on how they might have used apps in previous placements or at home.
What if Things Change?
Over time, the case can evolve and there might need to be reductions to who your foster child is connecting with. Don’t wait for them to be on the call to tell them “your caseworker said you can’t speak with them anymore” because you are going to send them into an emotional event and damage your ability to show fairness and consistency and flies in the face of leading by example. Proactively have a conversation, let them know you understand their feelings, and tell them the reason why. The conversation might be hard but it is much easier than having it while they are already on the call.