Many homeschooling families make the decision to open their loving home to a child in need through fostering. Being able to provide a stable family for a child is a blessing to all parties. Questions arise, however, surrounding the issue of homeschooling. Can a family legally homeschool their foster child? Should they?
First, if you are considering fostering, you may want to consider signing on to do relief foster care first. This would give you and your family a taste of what it will be like to have a foster child in your home without committing to fostering indefinitely. Giving relief care is a blessing to the child’s current foster parents as they get a much-needed break, and it also gives you and your family a chance to extend the love and care of your home to a child in need.
After a time of relief fostering, you may decide that fostering is a good fit for your family. When you sign up to give foster care, you sign documents that state that you will raise the child as if he were your own, in the care and tradition of your home. Part of the tradition of your home is homeschooling. Can you educate your foster child as you would your own?
You need to remember that the legal responsibility for that child belongs to the child welfare agency of your province, not to you. As such, the education of the foster child is also the responsibility of the child welfare agency. You can imagine that the agency will assume that the child will (and should) be enrolled in the local public school. And truly, if the child is already attending your local public school, it may be best (on account of consistency and stability) to keep him enrolled there. However, you may learn that there are issues at that school with which your foster child is struggling. You may know that he would learn and develop more successfully at home with you and your children.
There are certainly grounds for making a case for homeschooling before the social worker. Typically, the child welfare agency and the social worker involved will be uninformed about the mechanics of, and the benefits to, homeschooling. You may want to talk with your social worker, pointing out your educational plan for all your children and what you intend for your foster child. You may want to provide articles and research about the benefits of homeschooling in general, and to your foster child in specific. You may want to express your concerns about specific negative issues at school and how homeschooling your foster child deals positively with those concerns. You may want to suggest a trial-run whereby you homeschool for a semester and then re-evaluate. And, of course, you will want to use your own children as a case study for the success of homeschooling by showing work they’ve done and difficulties they overcome. Overall, be gracious and reasonable in your dealings with the child welfare agency, understanding that homeschooling is not an expected course of action among social workers. Everyone is working towards the same goal: the health and welfare of that child. Don’t let homeschooling become the deal breaker issue in whether or not you give a child a loving home.
As always, if you need assistance in dealing with the child welfare agency in your province, or if you need help in communicating with the social worker, please contact HSLDA for information and resources related to fostering.