Welcoming a foster child in your home is a wonderful and stress-filled experience for you and the child. You want to ensure the child feels safe and respected and is not overwhelmed by the initial meeting. To help parents with this transition is nonprofit organization BCFS System, a global nonprofit organization that provides an array of services including mental health care, foster care and adoption services, transitional living, emergency response management, and many others. Here are the group’s top eight tips for welcoming a foster child:
- Help them Unpack
After greeting the child, the parents and any other family members can offer unpacking services. Foster kids will feel better if they aren’t living out of a suitcase. So, if they’re willing to accept help, then putting their clothes and personal items in drawers or closets is a great first step.
- Put Up Pictures
If you’re a foster parent with children of your own, it’s likely you have some pictures of them on the refrigerator or adorning the walls. Ask the foster care caseworker for a picture of the foster child and print and frame it before they arrive to help them feel included.
- Note Accomplishments
Most parents will note their kids’ accomplishments by tacking up their report cards or displaying sports trophies. Foster kids often crave validation and recognition, so be sure to note their academic, athletic, or hobby-related accomplishments.
- Cook their Favorites
You can ask your caseworker for additional information about the child, including their favorite meals. If you can give them a plate of spaghetti and meatballs or a veggie burger on their first night, they’ll likely warm up to your family and some dinner conversation.
- Give them a Goodie Basket
Put together a surprise goodie basket for your foster child as a welcome gift. This doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, but could include a toiletries kit, some new towels, snacks, and a new toy for a younger child.
- Add the Personal Touch
You can again ask the caseworker for information about the child’s favorite activities or entertainment. Maybe they love soccer which gives you a chance to buy soccer-themed pajamas or a jersey. This small gesture indicates you care about their individual interests and will support them.
- Help them Feel Safe and Secure
Younger kids might need extra comfort to help them fall asleep in a new home. Give them several nightlights in their sleeping area and in the hallways. A new stuffed animal or blanket can also help them to settle into a new area.
- Greet them Calmly
The first time the foster child comes to your home should be welcoming yet peaceful. If you have a family of six and two barking dogs standing in the entryway, that’s a lot of stimulus. Greet the child in stages and give them some space if you feel they need a few minutes of quiet time.