The first day can be difficult for both child and foster parent. Here are some ideas that can help your new addition feel welcome.
Welcome Book - I just came across this idea when doing some research for one of my recent blog posts. I'm SO excited! A welcome book was originally designed for a new adoptive child to introduce him or her to their new family. It was such a wonderful suggestion to adapt this to welcome a foster child! While the Welcome book described in this link is more personalized, I am going to make mine a more general introduction to our family. We'll be able to make this available to every child as they come into our home so that they can learn about our family at their own pace. I remember my 13 yr old being so nervous when I came to pick her up from school the first few times, she had been in so many homes she couldn't remember what our car looked like. This could really help with situations like that.
Welcome Basket - Children often come to their foster home with little or nothing. A welcome basket is an opportunity to give them something of their very own while welcoming them to the family. There are many options as to what you can include, we choose to have a beanie baby, coloring book or journal (depending on age), crayons, a cool pen or pencil, a bible, and a homemade welcome card signed by the family.
House tour- Give your new foster child a friendly house tour when they first arrive. If you have other children this can be their job. Many will be comforted to meet the animals. Make sure they know where the bathroom is and end the tour with their bedroom, offering them some space if they'd like to be alone.
Offer a simple snack If a meal isn't scheduled shortly after their arrival. Some children that have suffered neglect struggle with not knowing when/where their next meal will come from. To offer them a snack, apples, crackers, something simple will help to reassure them that food will not be an issue in your home. At this time you can also tell them about what time to expect the next meal.
Do something simple for dinner- their first night is not the time to introduce some crazy entree that they may have never seen before. Do something simple and likely familiar to them. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, etc. A favorite in our home is personal mini pizzas where the kids get to choose from a small variety of toppings to include on theirs.
Be Honest When Answering Questions- Be open and honest when answering questions. The kids may likely want to know when they will get to see or talk to their parents next. It is better to say that you don't know (social workers usually work to set up a visit as soon as possible) than to make assumptions or promises you can't keep.
Rules - Have the rules of your home written simply and posted somewhere. Go over them, using a gentle, positive voice within the first 24 hrs of the child's arrival.
What are some other ways that you could make a child feel welcome that first night?
Tomorrow: Choosing to Adopt