When your very first foster children arrive to your home, it may be both exciting and a little bit frightening. It’s hard to know what to expect from the new stranger or strangers who will be moving in and living with you. And it’s equally as difficult to know what to expect from yourself. Foster care, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, is a learning experience. Foster children will challenge you again and again and you will find yourself confronting your own expectations, standards, and personal issues on many different levels.
The experience of doing foster care is one that will cause you to grow as a person and as a parent. There are many personal, enriching experiences to be had through the process of fostering children who need you. Though foster children may or may not always respond the way that you wanted them to or hoped that they would, your ability to adapt your approach to different children and keep your home orderly will get more refined with time.
When a child or children first arrive to your home, your emotions about the situation will likely be very different from theirs. Though you may be curious and frightened, you may also be excited. Your foster children, in contrast, very likely feel defeated and terrified by what’s happening to them. Unless they are teens or children who have been in and out of several different foster homes, they will probably also be very confused about what’s going on and they may be afraid to ask questions.
When new foster children first arrive, you can welcome them by taking a few minutes to show them to their room and show them where to put their things. Show them where the bathroom is in your home and then tell them who you are and reassure them that you will take care of them. Most children will register a small sigh of relief if you tell them sincerely, “I will take care of you.”
Many foster parents keep a few extra items on hand for new foster children who arrive with nothing but a couple of items in a plastic bag. A toothbrush, comb, some pajamas, and perhaps a stuffed animal can mean a lot to a child who arrives in the middle of the night without anything but the clothes on her back. Give new foster children just enough information about what’s going on to help them quell whatever confusion they have about the situation and then, make yourself available for them to ask more questions.
Each foster child is different and you will certainly need to adjust your expectations and your approach to fit the needs of each one. It is common for foster parents to have little or no information about the foster children who arrive on their doorstep. Foster parents get by though, and, if they love what they do, find a way to make do with whatever information they have available to them. Foster parenting, is after all, very much about resourcefulness although creativity and working as a team factors in heavily too. Have faith in yourself when that first foster child comes through your front door. Foster parenting is an adventure! Enjoy it!