By Eleanor Delewski
Being a foster parent guarantees you are going to have to face some hard talks with your kids.
There are many times I have struggled to find the words to explain this crazy world to a small child.
We have a collection of books on our shelf that help us to find the words that are so hard to say and help to introduce ideas to conversations. We have read these books with many foster children, and also with our birth daughter as we prepared her to become a foster sister. These books are listed in no particular order. There are probably lots more great books out there - these are just the ones that have made it into my personal library over the years.
While many of the books are aimed at children aged 4-8 years I have read them with younger books (often shortening the sentences for them) and read them with older kids as a way to introduce a hard idea into the conversation.
(Please note: Richie's Wish receives a small percentage of any purchases made through the links below. All proceeds from purchases are used to support upcoming projects).
The Family Book
Target Audience: 4-6 years
This is hands down my favorite book to read to kids in general - however they joined your family. This book explores all the ways families can be made up, but reminds us that the one thing all families have in common is love!
My daughter is eight and still asks to read this book often, we have been reading it with her since she was two and it always sparks a conversation about our family or a friend's family.
Target: 4-7 years
This is probably my favorite book written for kids in foster care.
It offers a gentle introduction to what foster care is, in language a child can understand. It is a great book to have on your book shelf BEFORE you first kid comes home.
And That's Why She's My Mama
Target Audience: 4-8 years
"Even though we look different she loves me every day, and that's why she's my Mama in every single way"
This book talks about all the things that Moms do that make them a Mother - a great book for transracial foster/adoptive parents but also a valuable library addition for any foster parent who wants to introduce the idea of what makes a parent a parent. It can be hard to explain to a child that what makes a Mom or Dad is all the acts of parenting that go into each day and that the biological relationship between a parent and child has nothing to do with how real the relationship is.
Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing TPR
Target: 4-7 years
There are times when our own words fail us - trying to explain TPR to a child is the kind of time when I found my own words inadequate.
This book emphasizes a few key points : when families change it is NEVER the child's fault and it is okay to love ALL of our families - even if legal ties have been terminated. This book also gives examples of why children may not be able to live with their first family - and lets kids know that they are not the only ones to have this experience.
Kids Need to Be Safe
Target: 6-10 years
Similar to 'Maybe Days' this book explores why kids may enter foster care and what it means to be in foster care. The book can be repetitive to read, each page includes the phrase "Kids are important, kids need to be safe" - but the repetition of the mantra can be powerful with kids who need to hear this message. I had one little girl in my home who would ask to read this book often, I would hear her sometimes repeating this mantra to herself "Kids need to be safe. Kids are important"
Love You From Right Here
Target Audience: 0-5 years
Kind of like a story book combined with a 'baby book' for kids in foster care, this book includes a story explaining why children may be in foster care and has spaces for foster parents to add pictures and stories about their child. For a child that is moving on to a different home this book offers a wonderful tool for sharing the child's history with the next care giver, and with the child when they are older. A common criticism of this book is that it would be more relatable for many children if it included a diverse range of foster families and children - while I wish this book did include more diversity in it's characters at this point I have not found a more diverse alternative so do keep a copy of this book on our book shelf for our next foster son or daughter.
Today I'm a Monster
Target Audience: 3-5 years
This book is written for any child going through some tough stuff. I have read this book with my home grown daughter a lot over the years as she struggled with her sad and angry feelings about having a chronically ill older brother.
The book covers some valuable ideas: that angry feelings come and go, that doing something 'bad' doesn't make a child bad and that a parents love is unconditional.
A Mother for Choco
Target Audience: 2 -5 years
Choco wishes he had a mother, but who could she be? He sets off to find her, asking all kinds of animals, but he doesn't meet anyone who looks just like him. He doesn't even think of asking Mrs. Bear if she's his mother-but then she starts to do just the things a mommy might do. And when she brings him home, he meets her other children-a piglet, a hippo, and an alligator-and learns that families can come in all shapes and sizes and still fit together.
This book has been a favorite of many of my kids over the years, we are now on our second copy as the first one got loved into tatters over the years.
A Terrible Thing Happened
Target Audience: 4-8 years
This book is written for children who have witnessed or experienced something very traumatic - it is vague about what the 'terrible thing' that happened was (giving children space to insert their own experience into the story) but talks about how a child may feel after a 'terrible thing' happens and who can help with those feelings. This isn't a book I read with every child that comes through our home but I like having it on the shelf for those kids who have a big event in their history that they are struggling to talk about. Again I read this book with my home grown kid too - she lost her big brother last year and can relate to a lot of feelings the book describes.
An Invisible String
Target audience: 4-8 years
This book is also a favorite in my household.
The story is built around the idea that we are always connected to people we love by an invisible string - even when we cannot be together in person. Children in foster care experience a lot of separation and loss - from birth parents, sometimes siblings, from previous foster parents... for a child missing someone or preparing for a transition this 'invisible string' can be a comforting idea. The book also briefly touches on the idea that we stay connected to people who have gone to Heaven too - I have had a fair number of foster children who had lost close family members so including this line about 'invisible strings go all the way up to Heaven" was a welcome idea.
I've loved you since forever
Target audience: 2-5
In the universe, there was you and there was me, waiting for the day our stars would meet....
I dare you to read this book and not tear up a little. I have not managed that yet. Many foster and adoptive parents begin dreaming of parenthood long before the kids come home, this book is written in a lovely lyrical way and talks about the love that an adoptive parent develops before the child arrives in their arms. The line " you and I turned into we" gets me every time.
Did I miss your favorite book? Drop a note in the comments below and I'll add it to the list.