Holiday Help for Foster Families


This time of year can be especially difficult for the children who are separated from their biological families and sharing the Holidays with their foster family.  Some children want to be home. Some children do not want to be home. Some children don’t even know what “home” is.

Be patient and understanding.

Define Normal

Foster families, what is normal for you, is not normal for the children you are caring for.  Explain to your foster babies what your traditions are, so they know what to expect.  At our house, everybody gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve after attending church.  Christmas morning we open presents and then we celebrate together by having brunch with family.  A child who is new to our home has no idea this is our tradition and may be overwhelmed by the experience.  Even in circumstances where the children have been horrifically abused, they are going to be strongly impacted by the Holiday Season and may want to be with their family.

Sibling Separation

I cannot express this enough… If the child you are caring for is separated from their sibling(s), make every effort to ensure they have some form of contact during the Holiday Season.  Children do not always tell us when they are worried about or thinking of their siblings. I have asked many foster children if they were thinking of or worried about a sibling placed in a different home and 100% of the time the answer is a resounding yesIt is disheartening to hear foster parents who say “they haven’t mentioned their sibling(s)”.   I can assure you… they are always thinking about brothers and sisters.


This is a very touchy subject. I have seen children in foster care who are lovingly enveloped into the family and are given gifts with the same thoughtfulness and quality as the biological children in the family.  I have also seen the opposite, where the foster children are treated exceptionally poor in relation to biological children.  This reinforces the script that already runs through their mind, telling them they do not belong in your family.  If you share gifts as a part of your Holiday celebration, then treat your biological and your foster children equally.

Help your foster child create a gift they can give to their biological family.  The simplest and most precious gift would be a photograph of him or herself in a frame.  Photographs are treasures.  Your child should be gathering photos of their entire family, (including yours) in their life book.  I am shocked and appalled that half of the foster alumni who are contributors to our book “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life” have no photos of themselves as a child.  The other half only have one photo.  If you have positive interactions with the child’s biological family during visitations, offer to take pictures for them.

Slow Down & Enjoy Each Other

It’s okay if you don’t make all the sugar cookies because your little foster munchkin is having a meltdown after visitation.  Slow down and take a moment to deal with your foster kiddo.  They will remember your comfort more then they will the sugar cookies.

Enjoy the funny firsts that happen with children who are having brand new experiences in your home.  One day in my duties as a child welfare worker, I had to move one of my foster dumplings into a new home.  We arrived at lunch time and sat at the kitchen table.  The foster mother placed a strawberry on a plate and set it in front of her.  She had never eaten a strawberry before.  She looked at it as if it was an alien.  She pursed up her lips, folded her arms, and said she was “NOT” going to eat it because it looked disgusting.  After some cajoling she tried the strawberry.  The look on her face was priceless.  She loved it.  Our laughter broke the ice and helped to open this child up to meeting her new foster mother.

Do You Have Any Funny Firsts to Share?

Share any “funny first” stories in the comments below, remember… do not use your foster child’s name.

Happy Holidays!



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