New Foster Parents: How To Welcome a Child Home
Fostering children consists of many responsibilities and requirements, and new foster parents often feel overwhelmed. While you’re doing incredible things to help children, it can be intimidating, too. Even meaningful work causes stress sometimes. To help you feel empowered and supported, we share some of the best advice for new foster parents for your first night with your child and beyond.
Tips for First-Time Foster Parents
Prepare in advance.
It’s difficult to know what to expect when you get a new foster placement, but there are many things you can do to prepare yourself and your home in advance. Start by making a list of essentials to buy for any child. Necessary items include:
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Hair care products for various hair types
- Bath supplies
- Frozen meals
Before your child arrives, take note of nearby resources for new foster parents. Support groups, information centers, government assistance, and social support all play key roles in an effective support system. Knowing where to go for all your questions helps set you up for success.
Create a welcome message.
Some foster parents like to prepare a welcome message for a new child in their home. This can be something you send in advance or give to them on arrival. Welcome messages introduce them to you, your family, and your home so their new environment doesn’t feel so unfamiliar. They also provide a great opportunity to offer words of encouragement and support during a traumatic time.
Activities temporarily distract children from the rollercoaster of moving homes and help put them at ease. Plan activities ahead of time so you don’t need to think of something to do on the spot. What activities make children feel comfortable? Some ideas include walking in nature, coloring, playing conversation games to break the ice, or doing simple crafts.
Be flexible and patient.
Children in foster care have gone through the trauma of being separated from their families, and many find themselves shuffled around between foster homes. Because of this, they might not open up to you immediately. Let them build trust in you over time, and be prepared to adapt to their individual needs.
Being open with a child in foster care helps them get to know you and feel comfortable around you. Children appreciate when an adult behaves honestly and authentically with them. It builds trust much more quickly, and it can also reduce awkwardness and tension. In many cases, being vulnerable first helps others be vulnerable, too.
How To Help a Foster Child Adjust
Arriving in a new place, often without much warning, leads to feelings of unease and insecurity in most children. You can help them settle in and feel comfortable by:
- Establishing rituals and routines
- Being a good listener
- Following through with promises and stated intentions
- Letting them have freedom and individuality
Your home’s interior can also be planned to offer maximum comfort. Creating a calming home through intentional color choices, soft textures, pleasing scents, and spaces like a calm-down corner all add to the tranquility of your home.
Remember, new foster parents, that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Children just want a family who loves them unconditionally, not a perfect one. Rely on the community, family, and friends around you for help when you need it. Most importantly, remember that you’re keeping a child safe and providing a refuge during stressful times.
We love supporting foster families, and we’d love to support yours. If you have a need, please email us at email@example.com so we can connect you with our partners and resources in your area.