No matter how long you have been a foster carer, the first day with a new foster child can be an anxiety filled day. This is not the day for big events, major outings, or many guests coming over to your home.
Keep it simple. The main things to focus on in the first days are meeting their needs and making them comfortable. Focus on the small stuff.
Here’s five easy tips to help make Day One a bit smoother for your new foster child and also for you, the carer.
5 Easy Tips for the First Day with a New Foster Child
Remember, a new foster child will be filled with many concerns as they walk through your door for the first time.
1. Prepare a snack, and place it somewhere that can be seen.
Can you imagine being picked up by someone from one placement, being driven across town with anxiety building, missing your lunch, and meeting a new person all within hours? It’s rough.
Food is the way to a foster child’s heart. Make cookies, fruit, cupcakes, or muffins and sit them on a plate somewhere that will be one of the first places they will see.
Immediately after introducing yourself ask if they would like one. They may not take it just yet, but have it available anyway.
2. Don’t Crowd the New Foster Child!
You can’t be overbearing to a foster child.
- Don’t hug them unless they initiate.
- If you have many people in the home, try not to have them surround the new child.
- Let other children introduce themselves gradually.
3. Show Your New Foster Child Around
Let a new arrival check out the whole house. Take your time, but let the child lead the speed.
As you are showing your new foster child around your home, you can work in a few of the basic house rules.
- Show them every place they are allowed to go in the house
- Make sure they know where the bathroom is
- Take them where any play toys may be kept or stored
- Which bed and cupboard is theirs? Ideally they’ll have their own bedroom.
- Introduce anyone you encounter on your walk around the home – including the dog or the cat.
In an ideal situation there will be a small stash of snacks in their room just for them. I would have loved that when I was a new foster child, and this will earn you some brownie points with most children.
4. Leave them alone!!
This was the hardest thing for many of the foster parents I had. When the case worker is gone, leave the child alone for a bit. Let them settle in, play with the new toys, eat, walk around the house, or take a nap.
Make sure you tell them where exactly in the home you will be and that they are welcome to join you if they want, but they don’t have to. Give them some time to get use to being in a new place. This really is where foster parents mess up.
Do NOT use this time to:
- ask them why they are in foster care
- talk about previous placements
- tell them they can trust you
- tell them they can call you mom and dad, or to
- force unwanted conversation.
Let a new foster child get used to being in your home before you force conversation on them. Be polite, and if they choose to open up to you on heir own then great, but don’t force it.
5. Watch a movie
When the day is over, assuming your new foster child didn’t show up right at bed time, have the family sit down and watch a family movie.
Encourage your new family member to sit down and watch with you, but again, don’t force it.
Give them a couple of choices and let them have a say in the movie of the night.
Make some popcorn.
Watching a movie on the television will give a new foster child something relaxing to do with their new temporary family. It doesn’t require a lot of talking and it involves relaxing. A movie really is a great choice for the first day together.
First Day for New Foster Child (and Carer)
Being a foster parent can be stressful, but being a foster child is rougher. Do everything you can to make a new arrival in your home feel comfortable, without being pushy.
- Ask them what they want
- Give them options
- Set the rules in a relaxed manner
- Don’t force them to do more than they are comfortable with.
After the first day, just give them time to adapt. Remember every house is different and you can’t expect a new foster child to feel comfortable in one day.