Finally, you have gone through the lengthy fostering assessment process and been approved as a foster carer but knowing that a child is coming to your home this evening may make you feel more daunted than the fostering panel you attended!
This easy to follow guide will help you to prepare for your first foster placement arrival and helps the foster child to settle in to your home.
The Child has a Story to Tell you
It is important to gather as much information as you can about your foster child from their social worker before the placement starts. If you do not have the children’s social worker’s contacts then, you can contact your fostering agency supervising social worker and request further information or ask the children’s social worker details to be shared. Some important things to ask at this stage are what the child prefers to be called, their bedtime routines, any fears they might have and any medical requirements. Often such information will be shared in the referral form however if you have not been provided with this information, then it is good start to gather all the information before the child arrives.
The placement planning meeting neds to be arranged within 5 working days and this is usually held at foster home with both the children’s social worker and fostering agency social worker present. However, it is also worth gathering information about child’s interests, whether they like or dislike pets, and the food they enjoy beforehand as it helps to smooth the transition into your family.
Any ideas? You could prepare a favourite meal for their first visit!
Encourage them to bring something for their bedroom or support the child with organising their bedroom!
Remember: You are giving a message of ‘you are part of my family’ and also the child feels in control of his/her personal space that is their bedroom!
Stay Calm and Function as Normal
It can be an overwhelming time and it may take some time to establish familiarity but remember not to rush. Avoid showing the child around the whole house, introducing to too many family members and bombarding with questions. Take a step back and allow your foster child to adjust to his or her new surroundings.
Any ideas? – Show the bedroom first and explain where they can keep things, ideas to personalise the room!
Remember: Showing the bedroom helps as the child knows the space is his/hers and he/she can use it as a sort of ‘safe haven’ if she/he ever feel too overwhelmed by the changes/new surroundings.
You are Welcome
A great way to start connecting with a child is to talk about how they would like to personalise their room. You could make plans for a shopping trip or look through a magazine together as it provides an opportunity to know more about the child.
Any ideas? NOT to buy items all at once and use items bought by the children. (This is different in case of emergency placements, please seek advice from your supervising social worker before buying items and as a general rule not to use more than the weekly recommended child allowance as an example £20 per week for clothing.)
Remember: Any item which could have sentimental value is important to keep around especially comfort toys.
Add Some Fun Element
Another crucial part of helping your foster child to settle in the next few days is planning activities together. It is a great idea to show them that home life does not have to be boring and you are there to support and arrange things for him/her.
Any ideas? Take a child’s age and interests into consideration before deciding what you can do, and see it as an opportunity to get to know the child better. Please don’t go for adventure activities or expensive surprises and check with the fostering agency supervising social worker before planning.
I am Approachable
Ensuring you are sensitive and approachable is another key consideration when you’re preparing to welcome a foster child to your home. Be an active listener. When you listen to a child it shows that you care and that you value their opinions.
It does not matter whether or not you agree with their point of view, but this is the golden opportunity to show that you are approachable and build trust from start. You are someone who they can share their thoughts and feelings with.
Any ideas? Be friendly and project a positive body language. As an example, if you’re talking to small children, it’s always helpful to talk to them at eye level to avoid scaring them.
Remember: Welcoming the child with warmth and compassion and showing the child understanding will set the placement off on the right foot. You can do this by actively listening to the child. This is also encouraging the child to be open and honest with you.
Rules and Routine
You don’t need to wait till the meeting with social worker (generally placement planning meeting) to introduce the house rules. In fact, its better to be done the very First Day! Also, create a sense of routine as it help to develop a sense of normality, responsibility and accountability.
Any ideas? Be simple and clear about your rules, but also understanding that the child may have some difficulty adjusting to the new environment.
Remember: Offer your time and patience, they may test your boundaries from time to time, but this is a natural part of growing up!
Your foster child may find it difficult adjusting to a new set of rules. Allow for mistakes and time to adjust your approach if necessary. They may have had very different rules to abide by in their previous home, and might not know why certain actions are unacceptable.
If you are considering fostering or currently fostering and would like to know more about what Sunbeam Fostering offers to their foster carers, we have lots of information on our website, or if you would like to speak to a member of our team check out our online chat or give us a call!