New Year, New Home: What Every Foster Parent Should Know
Dear Foster Parents,
I am writing to you to give you some ideas about welcoming a new foster child or youth into your home. I know a lot about this because I have been in a lot of foster homes….seven to be exact, during the two years I’ve been in the system. I won’t tell you the obvious things you probably know….. like being clear about what your rules are and showing me where I can find stuff I need like towels.
Instead, I’m going to give you some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you get ready to take on another foster child.
Do understand that moving to a new home is overwhelming. Please let my first few days be as low-key as possible. Keep things simple and save events involving lots of people for later. Even something as simple as a church supper can feel like too much for a new kid in your home.
Don’t expect to get to know me very well at first. When I met new foster parents I usually kept a pretty low profile while I checked things out. Giving a kid space to settle in at your house will help them feel comfortable sooner. I may just need some time to get used to a new environment. But don’t worry, before long I’ll let you know who I am and what I like.
Do understand that if I am entering a new school that will be a huge issue for me. When I knew that I was starting a new school, especially if it was in the middle of the school year, I was always very nervous although I didn’t tell anyone that. So, assume that might be true and do whatever you can to make starting school easier. Try to get your foster child a tour of the school before they start. Make sure that on the first day they and you know who will be their “go to” person if things aren’t going well. Try to get a supply list before they start school so that they’ll have what they need….like a particular type of calculator…. on Day One.
Don’t be afraid to check in and ask how things are going. Don’t bombard me with questions, but give me some chances to let you know how I’m doing. Remember that I’m more likely to open up when I feel comfortable and don’t have to make direct eye contact…..like when you’re driving me somewhere. Sort of raising a question aloud….saying something like “I wonder what it’s like for you to get used to being with a new family” can help me open up to you.
Do show me that you get how important contact with my birth family is for me. Right from the beginning, you can show your foster child that you respect their ties to their family. Make sure you understand what the plan is for them to have family contact and do your part to make sure that things happen on schedule. Reminding me that I have a call with my brother scheduled after supper and making sure I have a quiet place to make the call shows me that you get how important my family is to me.
A new kid comes into your home with lots of questions and not much confidence that things will work out. I hope these do’s and don’t will help you make their entry easier. That will be good for everyone.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
*This is a fictional letter based on real people and relationships.