Entry to foster care is an emotionally traumatic time for children and teens as it follows separation from families and all that is familiar. Children and teens will probably need time to adjust to this massive transformation in their lives.
Here are some things you can do to help make this adjustment a bit easier for both you and the child or teen.
Before the child or teen arrives:
- Set up his/her bedroom
- Prepare the rest of the family by telling them what you have learned (e.g., name, age, boy/girl, likes/dislikes)
Foster Parents Can Help the Child or Teen:
- Try to find out at least something about the child’s likes and dislikes before they arrive at your home
- If possible, take a day or two off from work to help the child settle in
- Try to have every household member present to welcome the child or teen to your home or gather everyone as soon as possible
- If you know of something the child or teen likes, try to have it available as a welcome gift–can be a very small thing
- Show the child around your home, especially the child’s bedroom, and which bathroom to use
- Ask the child about their likes and dislikes (e.g., food, clothes, games, books, TV shows)
- Gently explain some of the major house rules (e.g., mealtimes, bedtimes; TV, video, phone time; “Everyone chips in to help so we all have time to spend relaxing or playing.”)
- Explain basic rules:
- No swearing: “We use nice words to speak with each other.”
- No stealing: “If you need something, you can ask and we can discuss it.”
- No lying: “We want to learn to trust each other.”
- Expect to have to go over the house rules again
- Let the child know that it is OK to ask questions if she needs to know where something is, how to do something unfamiliar, or what the rules are
- Empathize with the child or teen about how hard it is to come live with strangers, but emphasize how happy and excited you are to have them in your home
Our specialists at Children’s Services of Virginia are on hand to help you with any and all strategies to help ease your new foster child into your home. If you are thinking of becoming a foster parent in Winchester, Harrisonburg, or Fredericksburg, we encourage you to contact us today to learn more!