As rewarding as being a foster family can be, welcoming a new member into your home can be challenging.
You may be feeling anxious and excited about what lies ahead. The child or children placed in your care may feel angry and confused about being separated from their biological parents or former family, and reluctant to start their life afresh in a new home.
This is why you need to take great care to prepare your family, home, and foster child for the coming change, so the arrangement is easy on everyone involved.
You won’t always get enough time to prep your home before the placement is made, so it’s a good idea to prepare your home ahead of time.
Your foster child is going through a great change or period of upheaval, so making your home as safe, welcoming, and comfortable as possible will make the transition less overwhelming, and help them feel secure and safe again.
If this is your first time fostering, this guide will walk you through how you can prepare to be a foster parent by creating a home fit for foster placements:
- Clean and organize your house
- Set up their bedroom
- Lock away medications, chemicals, and harmful items
- Secure any items of sentimental value
- Have essentials and supplies ready
- Learn as much as you can about your foster child
It may take a while for foster children to fully settle into their new living conditions and family, but taking steps to prepare your home and make it feel welcoming for them will go a long way in easing the tension and jitters that usually accompany such a change.
1. Clean and organize your house
You don’t have to spend money redecorating your home because of your foster child, but it’s important you tidy up before they arrive.
A messy and cluttered house might create an impression that they’re walking into disorder and chaos, which could cause them to feel unsafe and ill at ease. They’re more likely to feel comfortable in a home that looks neat and organized.
You want the child that is joining you to feel like it’s okay to spend time in the living areas of your home and not just in their bedroom.
Consider decluttering to create more space around your home. Remove any objects that aren’t serving any purpose and won’t be missed if they’re thrown away or locked up in storage.
Organize your home in a way that will easily make sense to the child, so they can be able to find things that they’re looking for on their own without always having to come to you for help.
This will create a sense that they’re a full-fledged member of the house, not a guest who has to ask for permission or the whereabouts of everything before they can use it.
However, try not to over-organize your home as this might make the child feel reluctant or fearful to interact with your space because they think you might get annoyed if they mess with your arrangement or don’t return something exactly the way it was found.
Make sure your smoke and fire alarms are working properly. Baby proof the house if you’re expecting a young child so they can’t easily open or access anything that could harm them.
2. Set up their bedroom
The child’s bedroom should be your main focus as they’ll probably be spending a lot of time there during the first few days or weeks of their stay while they try to get acquainted with their new surroundings.
It needs to be a place where the child is safe, secure, and able to spend time alone. It should have everything they need to feel settled and organized.
Decorate the room to suit the age and needs of the child or children you’re expecting. For younger kids, this means coloring books, storybooks, and toys. For older kids, magazines, video games, and a TV will be more fitting.
Older children will also appreciate having a space that encourages their identity and independence. Add a desk and chair to the room, and opt for a gender-neutral color scheme rather than the stereotypical blue or pink.
Providing a phone, computer, tablet, or access to other means of easy communication so they can stay in touch with family and friends will also be incredibly helpful. Of course, communicate with agency social workers or county social workers to confirm whether the child in foster care is allowed to have electronics or if there are any limitations.
If the bedroom is going to be shared with other kids, make sure their corner of the room is tidy and comfortable. Their bed should be arranged, a portion of the wardrobe/shelves should be cleared out to accommodate their belongings.
Whether the other children are biologically yours or from foster care, try to make their rooms equal, especially if they’re around the same age, to prevent feelings of favoritism or neglect. If one child has a TV in their room, add a TV to the new child’s bedroom.
Try not to go overboard with the decorating. You want to give the child a chance to make the room theirs by adding their own touch to it. That’ll help make the transition less difficult for them.
3. Lock away medications, chemicals, and harmful items
As you know, children can sometimes be a danger to themselves. You need to take necessary precautions to ensure their safety and health are protected.
Lock away everything from medications to your cleaning supplies so that the child in your care won’t be able to reach it and harm themselves. Pay a visit to your local hardware store and get a padlock, preferably with a number or combination lock so you don’t have to worry about losing your keys.
Some examples of items you have to securely lock up include:
- Plant food, garden, and outdoor maintenance products.
- Brightly colored soaps and toiletries.
- Bleach, laundry detergent, washing liquids, and other cleaning products.
- Painkillers, allergy tablets, and other medication.
- Scissors, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointments.
Items like these can pose a real danger when left out and about, especially to younger children who are often inquisitive. The last thing you want is for the child under your care to be involved in potentially threatening accidents while exploring your home unsupervised.
4. Secure any items of sentimental value
It’s a good idea to pack away any fragile or breakable items that are of sentimental value and store them securely to prevent them from being damaged.
Many of the kids in foster care come from difficult backgrounds and may be prone to destroying objects they find lying around.
Keep in mind that during the adjustment stage of foster care, there’ll be times when tensions run high and things may accidentally be destroyed or broken in the process. If there’s anything that’s too precious for you to lose, do yourself a favor and put them away ahead of time.
Your home should be a homely and welcoming space where children are free and encouraged to play without fear of causing damage to property or breaking something.
5. Have essentials and supplies ready
Depending on their situation, your foster child may not have a lot of belongings. It’s always a good idea to have basic supplies waiting for them.
Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, body lotion, hair moisturizer, tissue paper, face wipes, pajamas, clothing of varying sizes, and hygiene products like tampons and pads will come in handy. The items you provide will depend on the age, gender, race, and a host of other factors specific to the child.
You can start with the essentials, then when the child arrives you can ask them what supplies they need or prefer.
Put together some toys, games, and books for the child to serve as a welcome distraction until you can go shopping for stuff that is more suited to their tastes. Make sure whatever you get is age-appropriate.
With a child joining your home, you’re going to have more mouths to feed. Since you’re not familiar with what the child likes to eat, shopping for food supplies might be a complicated affair.
Try to stock your fridge and cupboards with the basic food items and a variety of snacks, so you can quickly whip up something for the child when they arrive.
Afterward, invite them to suggest food they like or prefer eating. This can be a way for them to bond and feel more welcome in your home.
6. Learn as much as you can about your foster child
If the situation allows it, try to learn about the background of the child to be placed in your care.
Ask your social worker questions to gather information on the child. Don’t just settle for knowing just their gender, age, or behavioral issues, enquire about their interests, character, and family situation.
When you have an idea of what the child is like before they come to live with you, you’ll be more equipped to deal with them when they arrive and be able to prepare your home to suit them.
Knowing these details about them will go a long way in helping you find a common link, bond with the child, and avoid potential triggers that could cause problems when they move in. It can also serve as a sign to the child that you’re truly committed to caring for them and make it easier for them to open up to you.
Preparing your home for foster care can help create a great first impression and a welcoming, comfortable, and reassuring atmosphere for your foster child.
The physical environment will play a huge role in smoothing the transition as well as cultivating trust, communication, stability, and successful relationships in the home.
Whether the placement lasts a few days, weeks, months, or leads to a forever family, the child’s experience in your home can have a significant impact on their life.
The Knotts Family Agency is happy to help and support you every step of the way as you provide a safe, secure, and positive foster home for a child in need. For more information on how to get into fostering, visit our homepage or call us on 909-301-0504.