When a child or young person comes into care, they will probably be feeling confused and frightened. This is likely to be a very stressful period for them.
It is therefore important that as a foster carer you try to understand how they might be feeling and attempt to put them at ease. Some things to remember are:
– Some of the children and young people who come to stay with you would have suffered from some form of abuse or neglect. As a result, they some may present with emotional, behavioural, or developmental difficulties. Your home environment will be different to their own home or previous placement(s) and your family rules and expectations, which are taken for granted by your family, can be bewildering to a young person.
– When the child arrives try not to have too many people there initially, perhaps just you or some of your immediate family, so it is not too much for the young person. They will most likely already have had an overwhelming day.
– It is important to value and respect all that a young person brings with them, including their clothes and belongings. To help them display their belongings in the fostering bedroom, can help them settle. If the young person wishes, you could display photos of parents, siblings or other people/pets that are important to them.
– It is also important to try not to change too much too quickly, in particular, the young person’s physical presentation, their behaviour, their usual routines, lifestyle and familiar belongings. You can do this at the young person’s pace.
– Initially, you will need to familiarise yourself with the young person’s routines and their likes and dislikes, whilst supporting them to get to know you. Preparing favourite foods or showing some knowledge of their favourite sports or music can go a long way to ‘breaking the ice’.
– They might be feeling confused regarding the relationship they will have with you, for example what to call you and about the rules for meals, bedtime, bedrooms. This may need to be gently explained a few times, also depending on the young person’s age. Some things such as curfews or pocket money, will also be discussed and agreed along with their social worker.
– Children will also initially worry about when they will see their family; some children might have been separated from siblings as well as other family members and they need clarity about when they will be seeing their family again. It will therefore be really important that they are supported to maintain these relationships through regular contact in person, on the telephone and/or face to face in a contact centre or in the community. It is the foster carer’s role to support positive contact by helping the child to prepare for such meetings, as well as dealing with difficulties which may present afterwards.
– If the young person joins your family home as a planned placement there may be meetings and overnight stays to familiarise the young person with you. Having an up-to-date carer family profile and photograph album about your family for them to see prior to their meeting you, will be useful as an initial introduction.
The first few days will be a slow and steady process in getting to know each other. There will also be plenty of meetings to do with health, school etc., to keep you busy. Don’t worry, your UK Fostering supervising social worker will be there to support you through it 😊