So you have been through the state mandated classes and you have had your home study, and now you are ready for your first foster child.
While your waiting here are 5 things you can do to make your home foster kid friendly.
1. Keep some food available for your new foster kiddos.
I know this seems pretty obvious but I think it is important. I think every parent, let alone a foster parent, knows you need food but what I am talking about is a little different. The biggest majority of foster kids are in the system because of neglect and one of the most common aspects of neglect is a lack of food. For whatever reason foster kids are commonly used to not having food available. It may be because of poverty or simply because the parents don’t care enough to make sure their kids get food. Sometimes it is because the parents were not able to pay attention to their child’s needs because of their own high needs and issues.
In any case, a big part of helping the child to feel safe is for them to have access to food all the time!
Have a well-sealed Tupperware bin that has plenty of healthy (non-sugary) snacks in it. Put the bin somewhere that the child can get to any time of day and make sure they know that they have permission.
2. Make sure you have plenty of night lights.
Children who have been abused are very often afraid of the dark. The experience of being removed from their home is also very traumatic. Making sure that the child feels like they are safe at night is a huge deal to them. Buy a few extra night lights and have them ready. We have even had kids that needed to go to sleep with the lights on at first.
3. A dresser or closet ready for their stuff.
Have a place set up for their stuff. Compared to most children they don’t have much so please respect the stuff they have. We all want to have our stuff respected so remember that they are no different, and they have already been neglected and made to feel “less” so give them a place that is all theirs.
Our foster son also has a nightstand drawer that is all his. He can put whatever he wants in it and nobody can look in it without his permission.
Something simple like that can make a huge difference to a child who has often had no control over anything in his life!
I know this one seems a little different but it is very important. From the very beginning you should let them know the house rules. If you have a foster child who is older you could post the rules on a whiteboard or something.
DO NOT just post the rules and leave it at that!
Go over the rules and consequences with the child as soon as possible.
Children in foster care may have had very chaotic lives in their biological, or previous, homes so some of the most important tools for helping them to feel safe are boundaries and consistency.
We have found that making the rules very clear and then being consistent about enforcing them helps our children to feel comfortable (because they know what to expect). Most children will resist at first but over time, having boundaries and consistency will help them feel safe in your home.
5. The Schedule
We have found that having a posted schedule for the household is a great tool to help the kids feel safe. In most cases it is not a good idea to surprise foster children. We use the schedule to give the kids an idea of what will be happening over the next week and to keep track of their chores and responsibilities. They get to check off things as they complete them. Getting to check things off helps them to get excited about doing things.
Note: This works great for anyone – Something about checking things off the list helps to motivate us to get things done.
A small fan.
We have one of these in each of the kids rooms. They cost around $15. Ours have heaters in them but the main point of these is “White Noise”
Sometimes just having a little bit of white noise helps a fearful child fall asleep better.