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Summer ideas for kids in foster care or adoptive homes

Family of four wearing sunglasses and waving out of a car window on a sunny day

School’s out and summer is here! As a new foster or adoptive parent, the next few months may seem daunting. Who will provide childcare while you work? What activities should you sign your child up for? Let’s dive in, but first, a note on how transitions in schedules can impact children.

How do transitions and trauma interact?

School provides a structure for kids, and for many children, structure can be important. Without it, children may experience anxiety and exhibit more severe behaviors. For children impacted by trauma, it’s normal for behavior challenges to increase when routines are disrupted. Anticipate more meltdowns and arguments during this time.

Talk with your worker when things feel challenging. You can also check out respite care resources, join a parent support group, and read information about trauma and behaviors. Two short resources from AdoptUSKids may be helpful: Is it lying or confabulation—and how should I respond? and Helping a child through a crisis. PAVE also has a great resource on reinforcing positive behaviors at home, which you can find on their website.

And remember that summer break can also be a great time for children to relax, recharge, and have lots of fun. We have a few ideas to help make this summer a good one!

Is summer camp a good choice for my child?

You might consider signing your child up for a summer camp. In fact, there are camps specifically for children in foster care or who have been adopted, and attending camp can be a great choice. Camps may offer a break from stressful routines and a chance to learn new things. They may also allow a child or teen to interact with other youth who look like them. For children in new communities, this can be even more important.

In order to find a camp, you can check with your social worker or post-adoption provider to see if youth or family camps are available. Those might be better than a traditional summer camp because the workers would have the skills to support children who are in foster care or who have been adopted.

With summer activities, cost is always a concern. But camps for youth in foster care or adoptive families are often no or low cost.  Also, if the child is receiving a subsidy, it’s possible that you could pursue vendor payments to pay for camp for your child. Check with your subsidy worker.

Think critically about overnight camps

You likely don’t want to pursue overnight camp if the child has been in your home for less than one year. This is a crucial time for bonding and for everyone in the family to adjust to the new normal. Save the idea of overnight camp for next summer. In addition, foster parents need permission from the state to have them stay overnight anywhere.

But if your child has been in your home for longer than a year and really wants to go to an overnight camp, be sure to seek any permissions you may need from the child’s caseworker and get guidance from therapists and other important professionals in your child’s life. Plus, be led by your child as much as possible. If they really want to go to an overnight camp, let’s see if we can make it work! But involve the important adults, like therapists, to mitigate as much risk as possible.

What are other activities?

  • Make a summer bucket list together and include all the things you want to do. This could include catching fireflies, eating s’mores, having a picnic dinner outside, trying a new ice cream flavor, and other small things that make summer magical. Having a list of things to check off can help add structure for kids who struggle without it. It can also eliminate the decision fatigue that can come with summer. Just grab the list and pick a fun thing to check off that day!
  • Head on over to the library! Public libraries often have free programs for kids, including summer learning centers, field trips to local museums, online activities, and more.
  • Plan a trip outside. Summer is a great time for visiting parks, riding bikes, going on walks, or even camping. Plan a nature walk with your child, where they can bring a journal to write down the animals and plants they see, what they hear, and even what they smell!
  • Check the CASA website for your area. It will often list summer activities for children and youth.
  • Visit your local YMCA. The Y has many free programs for children and teens. For example, the Earth Service Core is made up of teens who do service learning activities for the environment.

Getting ready for a family vacation

For the same reason that being out of school can cause behavioral problems, vacations can, too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a vacation. It just means that it’s a good idea to prepare your child for the changes as much as possible. Before taking off, think through the following questions and talk through them with your child:

  • How long will we be in the car/on the plane?
  • What will we do when we first get to the hotel?
  • What are the rules for being in the hotel?
  • What will we eat?
  • What comfort items do you want to bring?

Childcare support over the summer

You may need more childcare help during the summer while you work. Here are a few things to consider:

  • After adopting, you may be able to access child care vouchers. Read more about resources available after adoption.
  • There are daycare subsidies for foster care. Contact your worker.
  • You can access respite care. Your agency can connect you to a provider.

Surf’s up!

Share your summer adventures with us! Went on a fun family trip? Visited an amusement park that left your child feeling excited? Had a scavenger hunt throughout the house? AdoptUSKids would love to share your summer activities and stories on our blog. Complete the share your story form and we’ll reach out to you to learn more.