When older foster and adoptive children move into your home, they bring their entire history of relationships with them. While it is important to help the child feel a part of your family network, the child isn’t going to replace their longstanding relationships overnight and there are some roles they won’t be comfortable having you serve.
Through your relationship with the bio family and discussions with the caseworker you can identify responsible, caring people from your child’s life that want to be involved. These people can really help the child not feel abandoned and forgotten and may have connections with the child that can help them as they are processing their situation and having to address complicated feelings with their parents or therapists. While gifts and cards are nice, having person-to-person contact via phone or video can be a really important tool for your foster child.
How do I find them?
Start with your caseworker or the previous foster family as a source for trusted, involved adults. They might have already had conversations with these people and have recommendations for who could be helpful for the child to have contact with. There could be potential long-term placement options from the extended family or fictive kin who really need to be establishing or strengthening a relationship with the child so give those people priority when it comes to scheduling.
What role can they play?
The priority for these individuals is to just bond with the child and be a resource for whatever the child needs. That might be simple attention, it could be someone to play video games with, it could be someone they like to read to and can study with. Don’t force these roles on the adult but find out what their strengths are and let them know what the child needs (or what you aren’t able to provide); they might be willing to be the math tutor that kid needs once a week or just the person that kid needs to hear “I care about you” from.
How often frequently should they interact?
Many kids in foster care already feel overwhelmed with school, visitation, therapy, and talking to caseworkers and lawyers. Don’t pile up nightly meetings until you know how they would feel about more conversations with adults. Some relationships might be fantastic for the child and involve nightly messages or calls but starting with short, informal calls at mealtime or in the car ride to or from school can be a good way of kicking off the relationship with less pressure. If the child is young, having you there for the first couple conversations can reduce the pressure and help the child know that all these adults are on the same team together and not fighting for their attention or love.
As these relationships grow over time, there could be opportunities for the adult to host the child for a weekend or longer stay. Especially if they are a potential forever home for your child you should coordinate these possible visits with your caseworker.