Fostering is a wonderful thing to do. It gives you the chance to help numerous children from different backgrounds and situations. Whether a child is with you for a few nights or several years you have the opportunity to make a real difference to their lives. But, it can also be incredibly difficult. Foster children are often confused and upset, they are sometimes angry or frightened, and they can find it very difficult to settle into a new environment. Sometimes, they don’t want to be there at all.
If you are interested in fostering a child The Children’s Bureau could give you all the advice and help you need to get started. In the meantime, here are some great ways you can help a child feel at home.
When you foster, you don’t always get any notice of a child’s arrival. Nor will you know what gender or how old they are. So, you need to be prepared for everything all the time. If they arrive at a home which is ready for them they will settle more easily than if they arrived somewhere with nothing in place.
Get Down to Their Level
When meeting a new child, especially if they are very young, get down on your knees when you greet them. This is a great way to show them some respect and will instantly relax them and make them less afraid.
Give Them a Tour
Once you’ve introduced them to the rest of the family, take them on a guided tour of the house on your own. Show them every room, don’t make anything seem like it’s out of bounds or secret. This will help to build trust.
Give Them Some Space
Show the child to their own room and then let them have a little space to relax on their own. Let them come down and spend time with the family if they want to, but to begin with, understand that they might be finding things overwhelming and need some quiet time on their own to adjust. Let them take as long as they need.
Make it Personal
It can be hard to personalize a room when you’re not sure who is going to be using it, but try and find some toys and books that suit a wide range of age groups. Put some posters up on the walls and get some blankets and cushions to make it look comfortable. Let them know that they are free to add their own personal touches too.
Have Some Fun
You might find that some foster children have never done simple things like playing a board game, reading a book, or watching a DVD with a family. These might seem small things but they can really make a difference. Have a games night where you try lots of different games and a DVD night with popcorn and ice-cream. Just make sure you also have quiet nights where they are free to go to their room so you don’t overwhelm them.
The best thing you can do is to help a foster child feel at home. Let them know that your home is their home and it will be a place they are safe for as long as they need it.