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You are HERE >> Health and Physical Education : General

Lice Epidemic in Schools
by Gloria Greco
April 22, 2001


 
Many of you have thought about becoming foster parents, I know because I've written to many of you over the Internet. I am a foster mom of ten years. My husband and I have worked with over forty children, boys and girls.
Taking the step of becoming a foster parent is not easy, but the rewards are plentiful. I would not be telling the truth if I didn't talk about the challenges, since these are plentiful as well.

For instance, if you have never gone to battle with lice you are certain to meet this foe as a foster parent. Unfortunately, the training often overlooks this small detail since it may chase away desperately needed foster parents. As a foster parent, I would rather see this subject covered up front. The schools are infested with lice these days so by no means do only foster children experience this problem. Let me tell you what I've learned through the school of hard knocks, what I share in this article is not what I did the first time. But it is what I do now.

The first mission one has when a child is brought to your home is to break the ice and help your new foster child feel at home. We are an emergency home, which means we can have children brought to us by a police officer or a social worker depending on the circumstances. The first mission at this time is to help relieve the tension; my husband is very good at this since he is always making jokes. After a few minutes, sometimes even an hour, something you grow to know, one naturally moves to the next phase of the introduction. My husband and I work this process together. It usually means showing our child or children their room and then I give them their very own tooth brush and hairbrush. As I'm showing them where their personal items go, I slip on a pair of disposable gloves and do the head check from the base of the hairline up the back of the head. Within moments I will know if our child is lice-free... most are - or does our new foster child desperately need help? Those who are free of lice are greatly relieved to see that I move on, those who are not... are waiting to see what my reaction is going to be. It is important not to react, to simply observe the situation and reassure your child that you will overcome this little obstacle together. Communication is important at this stage of the game. If the child has lice, (which most know and hope you don't find out), you reassure your child that you have handled it before and know exactly what to do. Since this is now true, I give them the confidence to trust me to help them. It will involve missing three days of school, if it is a bad case.

You will need four things to get the job done; shower cap, petroleum jelly, disposable gloves and a ton of shampoo or some people use dish detergent.
I explain the treatment. If my husband is helping me, we tell them we know our treatment sounds drastic but it is what we have to do to kill the lice and the eggs. Usually if one child in a family has it, at least one or more of the others have it as well. Most of the children know about lice, even the young ones. They have been through it and could tell us stories. The little girl, who became my teacher since she initiated me into my knowledge of lice, had even had her head shaved before coming to us. I was determined to help her and used all of the normal methods before learning this one. What we learned together has been beneficial to many other foster children since then.
Once the petroleum jelly is smeared all over the hair and scalp, put the shower cap on. It will be slept in and kept on for at least 36 hours. I try to get them to wait two full days. When the time comes to take the shower cap off show your child the results. This is exciting. It is a major victory to actually see what is left in the shower cap and to see the look on your child's face when he/she knows what is happening. They need this knowledge to move into the next phase of the experience. Petroleum jelly doesn't come off easily; it is a process and will take much washing to be successful. I tell them how much better they look every day as we work together. And every day does get better as you continue until finally the hair is clean and shiny and very well conditioned.

Even if your daughter or foster daughter is a teenager, she will need help with this. It is not easy to get out. If you're working with a boy, it is possible that a less drastic method can be used, such as olive oil; but after looking at the methods and medicines available, I wouldn't waste my time. Once the jelly is out, you work at combing out the nix. They will come out easily and most will be gone and the few that are left will end up looking more like dandruff.
The great thing about this experience is that you and your foster child or foster children will have lived through a true crisis together. Without even knowing it, in the process you will also have bonded for life. Now, when I see my little teacher out at functions there is spontaneous joy the moment our eyes meet.
Living with lice is a terrible burden. If you know someone whose child has come home with lice share my experience. Trust me, the person will be open because many of the usual remedies no longer work. This one does.


 
Copyright © Gloria Greco Publisher/Editor/Writer for the Communicator, Community News from 1982-1994. Author of Good and Evil In Our Times and Enter The Silence, published in 1995 and 1999.  Send your feedback to Gloria

 
 
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