You never thought the day would come. While dreaming of fostering or adopting, you slogged through mountains of paperwork, passed the home inspection, and finished your pre-placement training. It seemed endless. But then the call came — a child needs a home. Suddenly your excitement turns to apprehension. Are you really ready?
Following are some tips to help you prepare for that magical moment when a new child walks through the door to join your family, whether temporarily, as a foster child, or permanently, as an adopted one.
- If the placement decision isn’t urgent, consider requesting a pre-placement visit or visits. These could range from an hour or two to an overnight stay. While not possible in urgent situations, these visits allow both the child and your family to test the waters and determine whether this match will be positive for everyone. This might also be an opportunity to connect with your child’s birth family and get a sense of what this relationship will look like.
- Check in with the other children in your home: what are their feelings now that a new child is coming to stay? Depending on the child, feelings could range from excitement to concerns about how they’ll get along with a new sibling, to fears about receiving less of your attention. Assure your children that you will continue to be the parent they’re counting on. You may also want to review the basics of confidentiality with your children.
- Take stock: is your home ready? A place to lock up medications, fresh linens for the child’s bed, and the home diagram and fire evacuation plan are just a few of the many physical requirements to attend to. Are there special items you need to obtain for the child? Medical equipment, a restricted diet, or other special needs could mean you have extra homework. Having everything on hand will save your family the stress of running errands during those important first few hours after the child arrives.
- Consider putting together a “welcome home book” for the child. This book serves to bridge the gap between the scary unknown and what will become familiar, safe, and secure. A welcome book could include photos of family members, written greetings using the child’s name, pictures of her new bedroom, and things to see or do in the community or neighborhood. (See our Tip Sheet for more details.)
- Your licensing or social worker has likely provided you with some information about the child and his situation. Be prepared to ask questions and have conversations with workers about the plan for birth family contact, crisis or safety plans, feedback you provide to determine the child’s Level of Need (the CANS tool), and whether there are any special conditions in the child’s court order that you should be aware of. Practicalities such as medical appointments and school enrollment, upcoming court hearings and visitation arrangements may all bombard you within the first few days of the child’s arrival. You may want to talk with your work to help ensure you are prepared to understand exactly what your role is in each of these important events.
Have more questions, or just want to talk to someone confidentially? At the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families, we want to support your family and all your hard work as a parent. If you need someone to talk to, referrals to additional resources, or information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 414-475-1246, 800-762-8063, or firstname.lastname@example.org.