Helping a Foster Child to Adapt to the Foster Home

foster child

It can be daunting to welcome your first foster child into your home. You’ll need to take a relaxed approach as the child will be nervous and will need you to be the calm in the storm. While new foster carers also have to adapt to taking care of a foster child, the focus needs to be on the child’s needs. Foster children have all been subjected to some form of abuse or neglect or the sudden trauma of a hospitalised parent and no one to care for them. This will be a tense time for the child, who may express their tumultuous emotions from a stolid silence to challenging to overexcitement. Below we will give you some tips to make this adjustment as easy for the child as possible.

Get Help in Advance

Many foster parents are unsure of what to do when the moment arrives, despite the intense training that they received. It is okay to ask the agency to give you some last-minute guidelines on your initial approach. They will be supportive and available to listen to all of your concerns. Eleventh hour jitters are perfectly normal.

Set the Scene

Arriving at your home may not be new for the foster child who may have been with other foster carers before. This is not new to them, and they will possibly be fairly blasé about the move on the outside. However, a child who has been fostered frequently may silently cling to the hope that this could finally be permanent and allow them to live their lives.

On the other hand, a child who is being fostered for the first time may be tearful and apprehensive. Show that you are a warm and approachable. Be flexible, as each child is different.

Have your foster child’s room set up in a way that shows you were expecting them, specifically. Make it comfortable and homely and remind your foster child that they can come here to be alone anytime they need to. Make sure you have purchased all the basics, including clothes and toiletries and have given thought to what they will eat and drink. Be prepared with some preliminary activities as you get to know their tastes.

Let your foster child in on the plans you have made to spend time together and have fun. Encourage your foster child to make their own suggestions. Above all, be authentic.

Be Patient and Give them Time

As already noted, this is not the first rodeo for many foster children. Don’t expect them to trust you overnight and show signs of wanting to build a relationship. They will be thinking, “So, what’s different, this time?” Be exceedingly patient and give the child time to adjust. Remain calm but set boundaries at the outset as changing what is allowed and prohibiting it later can result in confusion and mistrust.

Allow your foster child to retreat to their room whenever they feel overwhelmed. They have to adapt to a new home, new rules, new circumstances, with each new foster home. Continue to build trust. Be genuine and express warm regard for your foster child. Respect their boundaries.

When you are unsure of how to handle a situation or conflict, speak to your agency liaison at You will find them ever ready to assist you. They will provide you with resources and training as well as advice.

It takes time and effort to help a foster child to adapt to a new home, but the rewards are well worth it.

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