Much like any family with school-age kids, as soon as August arrives, our focus turns to Back to School. This is an exciting time for students as they head back to class, eager to share fun summer stories and see friends they haven’t seen in a while. Many youth also experience anxiety at the thought of new teachers, a new year of academics, new friends, and even new social structures. The myriad of things that make the start of the school year exciting and scary are felt by every student.
For youth that don’t have the typical family structure, such as those living in the foster care system, or those experiencing homelessness, a new school year can be especially scary. At Attention Homes, most youth are beginning their school year in a community that is foreign to them. Arguably, they don’t all have the same fun summer vacation stories or close school friends waiting for them like some of their peers.
Our staff play a critical role each new school year in helping our youth through this incredibly challenging time. Not only are we helping create some structure around the transition, we are supporting youth in talking about the complicated set of emotions they are experiencing, while we also pack their lunches and help fill out the forms for sports teams, art programs, and other extra-curricular activities. Most of all, we’re working to help make back to school as normal as possible for the young people living in our programs so they can have a successful academic year.
Krista came to our residential home, Chase House, 3 months ago as a result of her mother’s substance use. She’s had to take care of herself for quite some time and is enrolled for her first time at Fairview High School this year. Krista has missed a lot of school due to the lack of structure in her home life prior to coming to Attention Homes. Staff has checked in with her leading up to her first day of school & throughout the first week. There have been many emotions: excitement, fear, curiosity, and anxiety have all been part of the mix. She’s excited to hopefully make some friends and have more things to do. She’s curious and anxious about being a person of color in a largely white school; also knowing that her past experiences are probably largely different that those of her peers. She’s nervous about what to wear and how long she’s going to be there. But she’s looking forward to being out of the house more and part of a community. Throughout these honest conversations staff is sure to validate all of her thoughts and emotions, and help her process through it. Ultimately, they want to make sure she feels heard.