Waiting for your first foster child is a bit of a rollercoaster. You might spend weeks or months waiting until suddenly the time is here. You don’t want to get caught off guard by this call, and there are several steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved.
When that call comes, don’t say yes to the placement without asking questions. Find out more about age and background to make sure you’re both the right fit for each other. This is especially important for medical needs.
Build a support system
They say it takes a village to raise a child. While you won’t need a whole village, having a network of people to help you out is invaluable. Find people who can lend a hand or who you can go to for advice. Or even just a friend to babysit so you can get a little breather.
Learn more about mental health
Trauma comes out in many ways. From meltdowns to silence, aggression to attachment, kids express their feelings differently. Brush up on the signs and symptoms of trauma and mental distress so you’re equipped to support your foster child in the best ways possible.
When your world is turned upside down and nothing is familiar, routines are helpful. They let a child know what to expect and this helps stabilize their chaos. Sticking to regular sleep and mealtimes is just one way to add routine to their day.
Learn from others
We all have diverse cultures, religions, and lived experiences. Reach out to local organizations or find communities online so you can learn more about where your foster child comes from and what they need from you.
Stock the basics
It’s tempting to go out and buy every item a child might need, but don’t overdo it. Stocking up on diapers, hygiene products, simple foods, and other basics is beneficial. Buying a wardrobe worth of clothes isn’t necessary, especially when a child is old enough to have preferences for what they wear.
Prepare your family
Introducing a new member to your family affects everyone, so it’s important to make sure you are all on the same page. Set boundaries and clear guidelines for behavior and be consistent in enforcing them.
Give your foster child choices
Children in these situations seldom get to make choices. When we make a choice, we feel like we have at least a little bit of control over our lives. Give them simple choices, like what book to read or what meal to eat. Make these choices easy for them by giving only two or three options.
Take care of yourself
We provide the best care for a child when we’re not mentally and physically exhausted. Use your support system or resources in your area to give yourself the chance to breathe. That extra half an hour to soak in the tub or go for a run will go a long way to re-energize your body and mind.