When a child enters out-of-home care, there are so many questions and so many things on the to-do list. Ensuring that the child is safe, that he or she has the clothing and hygiene products that are needed, and adjusting to a routine take precedence for all involved. However, understanding the culture a child in foster care is coming from when he or she is placed with a foster parent, is an integral part of welcoming that child into your care, making him or her feel safe, and helping lay the foundation of a successful transition.
In each of our family lives, there are likely hundreds of little habits or rituals that occur every day without us even thinking about it; they are what make up our family’s “cultural norm.” Children who come into foster care have these same kind of customs, routines, and traditions that were part of the cultural norm in their family of origin. Now, having arrived in your home and with your family, they are faced with having to learn a whole new family culture and figuring out how they fit into it.
Getting to know more about a new child’s culture can help you, as a foster parent, understand the child much better. While you learn about and work in ways to honor the child’s experiences, preferences, and routines, you can also teach him or her about your home, your own family’s culture, the values that are important to you, and the customs you honor. You might ask questions such as:
- “How does your family celebrate holidays/birthdays?”
- “How are household chores done at your home?”
- “What is your favorite dinner?”
- “What is your bedtime routine like?”
Like in all things that are new or unfamiliar, a new living situation takes time for all to adjust. As foster parents, we know you try very hard to be welcoming and comforting, with a goal of helping children and youth new to your homes make successful transitions. By being flexible and adjusting the culture of your home to accommodate some aspects of the child’s culture, you can give the children or youth in your care time to figure out his or her new surroundings, as well as reduce any possible cultural conflicts.