Mar 09, 2018
Tips on Fostering a Child
If you're new to fostering, you might be feeling a lot of things: nervous, excited, maybe even scared. It's normal to be emotional and even a little uneasy at first, but don't worry. You'll get the hang of it soon enough! The best thing you can do for a foster child is provide a loving, open home. That starts with having some ideas of what to expect.
Meeting your foster child
The first meeting between you and your foster child could go a few different ways, depending on the child's background. The child will most likely be anxious and scared, unsure of how to act around you or in their new surroundings. She might be talkative and have questions, or she might be shy and say only a few words.
Here are some things you can do to calm the child and put her at ease:
- Ask about her well-being: Asking a child how she feels soon after you meet her lets her know that you care and will protect and take care of her.
- Ask if she is hungry or thirsty: A lot of children won't speak up when they want or need something to eat or drink. Asking this early on lets the child know that you will be meeting her basic needs. If she says "no" the first time, ask again throughout the day. Let her know how to get food and beverages on her own, if she doesn't want to ask for help.
- Show her around: Give the child a tour of the house, narrating how you use each room. Leave her room for last, and give her some time alone to settle in. Let her know where you will be and that she can come find you if she has questions or needs anything.
- Set boundaries: This is especially important if you're fostering an older child, but young kids like and need boundaries too. Examples can be telling them when bedtime is, how much screen time they're allowed to have, when the whole family is expected to be home for dinner, and general expectations about behavior. Set these boundaries and guidelines early on. Let your foster child know what the consequences will be if they neglect to follow your guidelines. This gives them a fair chance to follow your rules and lets them know that you're in the parent role.
- Keep a dialogue going (as much as you can): Some children are ready to talk and have lots of questions. Answer questions as honestly as you can. This helps build trust, which is an essential part of fostering. If the child doesn't want to talk, let her know that you respect that and are available whenever she does have questions.
How to prepare your other children for a foster child
If you have other kids at home, you'll need to spend time preparing them for how to engage with your new foster child. Here are some things to do ahead of time:
- Explain privacy and confidentiality: Let your kids know that they shouldn't bombard the him with questions about his upbringing. They need to know that if the foster child does confide, they cannot share information about his birth, family or home situation to anyone.
- Set expectations for modeling behavior: Let your kids know that they're expected to model good behavior for him. You can explain that the foster child might not always behave as expected, but that your kids should act as role models. That includes following your guidelines and accepting consequences for their actions.
- Explain that you are always available: Some kids might get nervous or anxious that having a foster child in the home means your attention is going to shift away from them. Let your kids know that you are always available if they have questions or if they need help. This includes letting them know that they should always tell you if he does or says anything that hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
Your foster child is coming to your home because of some sort of loss that happened in his life. This can result in his acting out in ways that are unexpected to you as he deals with feelings of anger, guilt, and grief. Taking training classes can help you prepare for how to handle these situations as they arise.
Above all else, never give up on your foster child. Spend some time every day listening to him, playing with him, reading stories, or just talking. It will take time for you to form a bond with your foster child, but it will be worth it.