Welcoming a new foster child into your home

Thursday 20 August 2020
Teenage boy listening to music in his room.

Welcoming a foster child into your home is a big step, but there are things you can do to ease the transition

These tips were written by Pam Gully, who provides therapeutic support to our fostering families

Before your new foster child arrives, find out anything you can about him or her. For example, which name they like or if they have a favourite food. 

Small choices make a child feel safe. You might like to make their favourite meal for the first or second night. You can also ask them to choose a takeaway meal.

You will also need to know, on the day, about any medication they are taking, the dosages and any medical conditions or allergies.

1. Make sure they arrive to a calm household

Remember that this change is likely to be anxiety-provoking for the child or teenager. Let them see their bedroom early in the tour of your home. Security begins with having their own space.

Calm also means not giving too much information (when they are likely to be at their least receptive) and phasing these conversations, over the next few days.

2. Tell them about your home

Things your new foster child will need to know on the first day include: who lives in this house, what their names are and if there are any pets.

Over the next few days, tell them about other relatives and friends of yours who may visit and a little about the neighbours. This will help them feel more connected to the people around them.

3. Discover the neighborhood together

Over the next week, or so, take them out and about in the neighbourhood, so that they can develop a picture in mind of the new area. If you know, show them the school they will be attending.

You could also show them the locality, on Google Earth, so that they can begin to form an idea of the town/city or county. This is especially useful if they’ve come from a long way.

If you know that they will have contact with one, or more, of their own relatives, have a chat about how this will be arranged.

4. Set some rules

When welcoming a new foster child or teen into your home, it's easy to be very open, very generous and not too bothered about rules and routines. In fact, the reverse is kinder.

Let them know, before they fall foul of them, the do and don’ts, what is expected of them to fit in with the family. Then, as time goes on, you can ease some of these rules, if/when you think it is appropriate. For example, bedtimes on Fridays and Saturdays might be an hour later.

Equally, it is best not to go out and spend a lot of money on them, beyond essentials, or they may come to expect you to be an open wallet/purse.