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First impressions count for a lot, and you may be feeling anxious about welcoming a foster child into your home for the first time and making sure that they feel welcome and can settle down well with you and your family.
Here are a few tips to make this process run smoothly.
Introduce the child to your family as soon as they arrive. It can be daunting to try to learn lots of people’s names at the same time and some agencies, such as Foster Care Associates, will recommend making them a welcome book to help them to remember everyone. Include photos of all the family, including pets, as well as a synopsis about everyone so that your foster child knows your likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, and favourite food. This will help them to build up familiarity which will make it easier for them to settle in your home.
Give Them a Tour
Show your foster child around your home as soon as practicable so that they don’t feel like a stranger. Show them their bedroom and provide them with some creature comforts such as clothes, toys and toiletries. Let them arrange these where they want to as this will help them to make their room feel more comfortable.
Some children will arrive in your home with little more than the clothes on their backs, so it is important that you have some necessities for them to get them through the first few days. Make up a welcome basket with all the things you think they might need such as nightclothes, their own towel, toiletries, and some toys. This is a kind gesture that will make the child feel welcome and help them to relax in their new environment.
Set expectations as soon as you can. This will give your foster child a clear set of guidelines and they will begin to understand what is expected of them. Let them know what the house rules are, and what chores they will be expected to do. This is a good time to set a curfew for older children.
Your foster child will be nervous if they have had to change schools so talk to them about their new school and tell them the name of their teacher. If you know other children who attend the school, it is a good idea to introduce them before your foster child’s first day. That way they will be able to see a familiar face on their first day and the other child can give them their own perspective on what the school is like.
Give Them Time and Space
All children are different and while one may settle into your household quickly, others may take longer. Don’t expect them to settle down within your timescales but give them the time and space to feel their feet and settle down. Be patient with them and continue to offer them reassurance and make them feel included.
Follow these five tips to help your foster child feel welcome during their first days and weeks in your home.