“Other (explain)” (Blog #5)

Author:  Julie H., Foster Mom

School forms. Hate them. I’ve had three children go through the schools and those forms are never fun. But, when I filled out those forms for my other three children, I actually knew HOW to fill them out. 

School registration forms are not meant for foster parents. Period. The first time I had to fill out school registration forms as a foster parent, I sat on the phone with the school social worker and we worked through the forms on what I should write and where. Page by Page. Almost line by line. She admitted that these forms aren’t developed for foster situations. As a mom to my three boys, they were easy to fill out. They were a nuisance to fill out, but I never struggled with them.  I was amazed at what

 a different perspective I had when I had to fill out the exact same forms as a foster mom. Parents names. Guardian addresses. “Other” caretakers. Addresses. Medical Consent permission forms. Which one do we fill out? Which does Dad have to sign? Eventually, I just started filling out the form as “all above”. I checked every box I thought I should check. Wrote in extra names above and below the lines they gave me. I filled in Dad’s name and address in the areas where I thought I should put him in. Then I just sent emails to the school clarifying who was what. Luckily I had immunization records and a birth certificate! That was actually the easy part! 

Then, I got a parent “homework assignment”  from a teacher (a great teacher by the way who my other children all had). She sent home a “getting to know your child” worksheet for parents to fill out about their child. I’d filled out this exact form for all of my other children over the years for this teacher. Easy schmeezy. Hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, activities they like, etc. Easy. But, now as a foster parent, it’s a different story! It’s HARD. The first question is “What is your relationship to this student?” With checked boxes that included: mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and “other (explain)”. I guess Miss D and my relationship is an “other (explain)”. I felt sad when I saw that question. I don’t want to be an “other (explain)”.  

In my Department of Public Instruction work world, we call this “Trauma Sensitivity in Schools”. Where you design lessons and homework that includes all kinds of families….that doesn’t force a child or parent/caretaker/foster/guardian to disclose that information or explain the “others” in their life. Where a school activity doesn’t create more trauma in that child’s life. This form definitely didn’t cause more trauma in our lives, but it was a hurdle to jump over when all we wanted to do was take a stroll. All this from a “Getting to Know Your Child” worksheet activity. In the end, Miss D and I filled it out together and got to talk about her strengths and things she loved! This symbolizes this entire journey…we gotta do this and figure this all out together! The theme of this blog? I hate school forms. 

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