Vol. 5, No. 1 Fall 2000
Help Children Understand Foster Care
Jennifer L. Painter
In troubled times, can dragons
really be helpful? They can if they are Michael and Sara, two dragon
siblings who experience life in foster care.
As a former foster youth, I know
how difficult the transition from "normal" life to foster life is. Your
old life, it seems, is over. Emotions flare, rules change, and adults
just don't understand anything. With feelings of isolation and confusion,
it is no wonder that foster children, especially young ones, have a
hard time adjusting. Many times they don't know how to express their
feelings, and sometimes foster parents don't know what they can do to
That’s why I was glad to come
across a series of books written by Sandra Heidemann, illustrated by
Kathy Gorman, and published by the University of Minnesota. This trilogy
of workbooks chronicles the lives of Michael and Sara from their entrance
into the foster care system to their ultimate reunification with their
The first book in the series,
A Safe Place for Michael and Sara, tells about Michael and Sara
with their parents. In the opening of the book, the family enjoys many
activities together, such as swimming and bike riding, portraying the
strong emotional bonds parents and children can have in a “normal” family.
Because of this bond, upon entering foster care, Michael and Sara still
love and miss their parents very much. This book deals with the strong
emotions that Michael and Sara experience, just like any child would.
Their emotions range from missing their parents and blaming themselves,
to lashing out and wanting to leave their foster home. In addition,
the book contains a guide for foster parents. This guide explains the
different emotions that kids may experience upon entering a foster home,
and how they may be dealt with. The guide also offers suggestions for
using this book, such as helping younger children understand by talking
about the pictures instead of reading the story.
The second book, Two Places
Called Home, deals with Michael and Sara learning to adjust to living
in a new home with new rules, while they visit with their birth parents.
Michael and Sara's foster parents learn how to deal with the children's
anger, and help them learn to understand their feelings. This book also
contains a guide for foster parents that deals with separation and loss
issues children face, and how these emotions can be handled.
The final book in the series,
Together Again, deals with Michael and Sara's return home. They
are excited to be back with their biological parents, but they also
miss their foster parents. As they learn to express their feelings in
a healthy way, the four of them learn how to once again be a family.
Each of these books deals with
serious emotions and situations that many children face. The story line
is simple enough for young children, yet it handles many of the profound
issues foster kids may face. Also, the pictures in the book can be colored,
making it even more appealing to younger children.
I highly recommend these books
for any person who has foster kids under the age of eight. These books
will help them understand what they are feeling, realize that they are
not alone, and help foster parents learn, too.
For more information about the
books in this article, write to University of Minnesota, University
College, 200 Westbrook Hall, 77 Pleasant St., SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455-0139.
Jen Painter is a sophmore
at UNC-Chapel Hill and a member of the youth advocacy group SAY SO.
2000 Jordan Institute for Families