Welcoming your first foster child into your home can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Even with all the training and preparation, you might not know exactly what to expect. Of course, the same is true for the young person you are going to be looking after. They will likely be nervous about living with strangers in an unfamiliar house. That’s why the best action you can take for both yourself and them is to prepare the most inviting, safe, and caring home you can for your new foster child.
So, how do you do that? Your foster agency will provide you with plenty of support and advice ahead of your first foster child arriving, and it’s important to follow the recommendations they give. However, you may also want to go a little further than that in order to become the best possible foster parent you can!
With that in mind, here are ten elements every home needs when taking in a foster child. Some of them are practical physical items, whereas others are more focused on mental attitude and the home environment. Taken together, they will help ensure that you and the young person in your care get off to a truly positive start.
1. A welcoming bedroom
Having a spare bedroom is one of the requirements for becoming a foster parent. It’s important that kids have a space that they feel is theirs, where they can not only keep their belongings but also feel safe and find privacy when they need it. In order to go the extra mile for the young person in your care, you can turn this room into a truly welcoming environment. This includes kitting it out with not only the basics such as bedding but maybe some fun and practical extras like a desk or TV. You want to ensure that they feel at home right from the start. It’s best to leave the decor fairly neutral before they arrive so that you can work together to transform it into something that genuinely suits their personality – especially if they’re going to be living with you for a while.
One of the more abstract elements your home will need when you become a foster parent is organization. Foster work can actually involve quite a bit of paperwork, as you will be attending various meetings and appointments as well as recording information about your foster child’s behavior and progress. Not only that, you’ll be undertaking a lot of training with your foster care Colchester agency in topics such as first aid, managing challenging behavior, and safeguarding. Good organization skills help you to stay on top of everything you need to do while providing the best possible environment for the young person in your care. Don’t worry, though – your training will begin long before your first foster child arrives, giving you plenty of time to get an efficient system up and running!
If you don’t already have children, one of the steps you will need to take before fostering is ensuring that your home is safe for little ones. Depending on the age of your foster child, this could include factors such as:
- Ensuring medication and similar items are locked away
- Having a first aid kit on hand
- Having a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm
- Ensuring doors and windows are secured
- Putting potentially dangerous items such as cleaning products out of reach
- Moving fragile items to places where they can’t easily be knocked over
4. Basic toiletries
When your first foster child arrives, they probably won’t have any toiletries or similar items with them, so it’s important to stock up in advance. Depending on their age, some of the essentials you should make sure you have include:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap and shower gel or bath products
- Feminine hygiene products
- Baby wipes
If they’re old enough, it can be helpful to simply show them where these items are located so that they don’t need to ask you (in case they’re embarrassed or nervous).
5. Child-friendly foods
Your foster child is, of course, going to need something to eat, so do a grocery shop in advance with kids in mind. It can be hard to predict exactly what they’ll like, which means that having a broad selection of choices can be helpful. As well as food for main meals like lunch and dinner, be sure to get some breakfast cereals, plus snacks they can have during the day if they get peckish. Family meals can be a great way to bond and ensure kids get all the nutrition they need, so don’t skimp on this! Another nice idea is to get some cake-making supplies in, so you can enjoy baking together.
A tidy home can feel more welcoming, and getting rid of clutter before your foster child arrives benefits everyone. At the same time, you don’t want your house to feel cold and sterile – this can actually make children feel out of place, uncomfortable, and worried about touching things or making a mess. So don’t worry about perfection! Lastly, it’s no secret that kids can be messy, so it’s a good idea to stock up on cleaning products before they arrive.
7. School supplies
If your foster child is old enough to be going to school, it can be helpful to have some stationery and similar items ready for them to use. This could include pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks, art supplies, and a backpack. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to purchase all of these items before your foster child arrives – in fact, going shopping for these might be a fun activity to do together. Plus, then you don’t have to worry about choosing a backpack that suits their personality before you’ve even met them!
8. Books and toys
Having some soft toys is a great way to make your foster child feel more comfortable in their new home. Even for older kids, having something to cuddle at night can be hugely beneficial. In addition, getting some age-appropriate toys for children to play with is a good idea. It can be both a distraction from anything difficult that may have happened to result in them being in foster care and a way for you to bond. Speaking of bonding, books can be fantastic for this. Reading is also very important for helping children’s intellectual development and academic skills. You could even find some books specifically written for foster children as a way to help them talk about and deal with difficult topics.
One of the most important elements to have in a foster home is compassion. The young people who find themselves in need of fostering have often experienced trauma such as neglect or abuse or other difficult situations like the death of a parent. Compassion and empathy are vital for understanding what they’ve been through and why it may result in some challenging behaviors at first. That way, you’ll be better equipped to help your foster child and build a trusting bond with them. Fostering isn’t always an easy role; however, with care and understanding, you’ll be more than capable of succeeding. Whatever happens, be sure to always respond to the situation with kindness.
A positive outlook in life will get you a long way, and this is certainly true with fostering. There may well be times when it’s tough, so you’ll need an optimistic attitude to keep you motivated. It isn’t only about you either, because the outlook you exhibit will have an impact on your foster child. If you’re upbeat, this will encourage them to feel the same way – especially when they first arrive. This is important because they may well have experienced a lot of negativity in their lives. Try to spend lots of time on fun activities with your foster child, from days out at the beach or a theme park to family nights at home. This will help ensure that they feel safe, supported, and cared for. Remember that all challenges can be overcome, and you’ll always have the support of your fostering agency to turn to if you need it.