Youth in foster care should be able to do things that any other child does, within the limits of their abilities, and with common sense. Their families experienced something severe enough to warrant the child's removal, and some of them need special care. Instead of continual reminders to them and all their friends of this one feature of their lives, we need to focus on all the opportunities open to them. We need to think of them as the normal kids they are.
Normalcy is allowing youth in care the opportunity to participate in age-appropriate enrichment, extra-curricular and social activities. It is also empowering foster parents with the authority to make decisions in the best interests of the children in their care.
Some questions foster parents can ask themselves when making normalcy decisions for the youth in their care are:
- Does this activity promote social development?
- Does the activity conform to the Service Plan, if there is one?
- Do I know this youth well enough to approve participation in this activity?
- Has the child shown maturity in decision making that is appropriate for their age/ability?
- Would I allow my own child to participate in this activity?
- Do I know who will be attending the activity?
- Does the child understand his medical needs and is he able to tell others how to help him if necessary?
- Will the timing of this activity interfere with sibling or parental visitation, counseling appointments or doctor’s appointments? Scheduling conflicts can be discussed with the caseworker to explore options to help promote normalcy.
- Does the youth know who to call in case of an emergency?
- Does the youth understand our parental expectations regarding curfew, approval for last-minute changes to the plan and the consequences for not complying with the expectations?
- Is the child able to take care of herself, make decisions and make good choices?
- If able and appropriate, have I shared information about the child’s participation with the birth parent?