Foster Care

What to Expect During the First Few Days of Fostering

As a new foster parent, the early days of fostering can be tough — for you and for the child in care! Let us help. Here’s what you need to know.

Becoming a foster parent is a big decision — it gives a safe and loving home to a child who can't live with their own family. They get a home, someone to care for them, and a chance to do well in life.

Here’s the thing: The first few days (and weeks) are especially full of different emotions. As a new foster parent, you might be excited to meet the child who is coming to live with you, but you might also be nervous about how to help them in the best way. You might worry about making them feel safe and happy.

The first little while in care is also tough for the child in care. Think about it: they’ve likely gone through trauma that no child should have to endure!

These early days are super important for getting to know each other and starting off on the right foot. It doesn't matter if this is your first time fostering or if you've done it before; the beginning can still be tough but also very rewarding.

Let’s look at what the early stages are like and what you can do to make them more comfortable.

Preparing For the Arrival of a Child in Care

When a child in care comes to your home for the first time, it's like they're stepping into a whole new world. You can make this big step easier for them by making your home feel welcoming and safe.

Here are some tips:

  • Make their room cozy - Set up their bedroom before they arrive. Make sure it's clean, cozy, and feels like a space just for them. You can add a soft blanket, a nightlight, and some books or toys. It's nice to let them have their own spot where they can relax and feel safe!
  • Personal touch - If you know a bit about what they like, such as their favorite color or characters from movies or books, try to add those touches to their room. It shows you care and makes them feel seen.
  • Keep the house calm - The day they arrive, try to keep your home peaceful and quiet. A calm house can help them feel less overwhelmed.

It's also a good idea to prepare your home with age-appropriate essentials — a collection of things that a child in care might need right away, depending on their age. 

Here's what you might include:

  • For young kids - Things like diapers, wipes, a soft toy or blanket, and children's books.
  • For school-age kids - School supplies, a few books at their reading level, and some toys or games.
  • For teens - A journal, pens, maybe a gift card so they can pick out something they like, movies, books, and a personal trash can.

For all ages, you’ll also want to have these items:

  • Pajamas on hand in all sizes and a variety of colors and appropriate styles
  • Plenty of combs, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, and other personal grooming items  
  • Underwear in all sizes and a variety of colors and appropriate styles
  • An appropriate selection of healthy snacks for each age
  • A flashlight and nightlights so they can safely navigate hallways at night
  • A spare house key for older children or teens in care so they never have to fear being locked out of the house

These steps help a lot in making an excellent first impression and starting your journey together on the right foot.

The First Day

The first day with a child in your home is a moment filled with new beginnings. Here’s how to approach it:

  • Give them a warm welcome - Greet them warmly when they arrive, but remember they might be feeling a lot of things right now — nervous, scared, or unsure — especially after being removed from everything they knew. A friendly smile goes a long way, but it's also okay to give them space to take it all in. Introduce yourself and any family members in the house, but give them some time before introducing them to anyone outside the home.
  • Show them your home - Show them around your home, pointing out where they can find essentials like the bathroom, kitchen, and especially their room. This tour doesn’t have to be all at once; you can spread it out to not overwhelm them. It’s also a good idea to give the child an idea of when mealtimes will be, as many may be coming from a home where food insecurity was a real concern.
  • Day one activities - It might seem like a good idea to plan activities to welcome them, but the best approach is often a quiet and calm day. They’re likely dealing with a lot of emotions and changes, so a relaxed first day can help ease those feelings. If they arrive with no clothes or other items, it can be good to take them shopping for some day-one essentials that can’t wait.
  • Patience is key - The first day is just the start. They might not open up right away, and that’s perfectly normal. Give them time to adjust to their new surroundings at their own pace.

The First Week

Even after the first day, there are still some growing pains with a child in care entering your home. 

  • Giving them space - It’s important they know they have a place to go when they need time alone. Whether it’s their room or a quiet corner, having a personal space can help them feel more secure.
  • Open ears, open heart - Be ready to listen if they want to talk. Sometimes, they might just want someone to listen without offering advice or trying to fix things right away. Remember, it's about building trust, and listening is a powerful way to do that.
  • Introducing house rules - While it’s important to establish some ground rules, it’s equally important to introduce them gently. Explain why these rules are in place and how they help everyone in the home. This can make the child feel included and respected.
  • Establishing a routine - A predictable daily routine can be very comforting. Try to have regular times for meals, bedtime, and other activities. This doesn't mean everything has to be strict or rigid, but having a sense of what to expect each day can provide a feeling of stability.
  • Encourage exploration - Encourage them to explore their new surroundings at their own pace. Whether it’s finding a cozy spot in the living room or picking a book from the shelf, discovering new things can help them feel more at home.
  • Mealtime together - Sharing meals can be a simple yet meaningful way to bond. It’s a time when everyone can come together and share their day. Try to make mealtimes relaxed and pressure-free, even if the conversation is minimal at first. Let them have input in the meals you eat as a family, too. There are bound to be some new foods they may have never tried or foods that give them anxiety, so welcoming the input of a child in care on what to eat is huge!
  • Understanding emotions - Recognize that emotions might run high. There could be moments of sadness, anger, or frustration as they deal with their feelings about this big change. Showing empathy and understanding without judgment can help them feel supported.
  • Patience and reassurance - Never stop being patient — it’s a quality that you’ll need to have throughout your fostering journey! Keep reassuring them that they are in a safe place and that it’s okay to feel how they’re feeling. Patience will be your greatest ally as you both navigate this new relationship. Try to remember that everything you’re doing is for the child in care and to benefit their future.

Building a Relationship in the Early Stages

The first day and the initial period of adjustment in fostering are important — they help to build a strong and positive relationship. 

Remember, it's about taking one day at a time and being there for a child in care through their journey.

Creating a bond with a child in care doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple, low-pressure activities can pave the way for meaningful interactions. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Arts and crafts - Engage in creative activities that allow for conversation and creativity. It’s a great way to spend time together without the pressure of making conversation. Plus, it allows both of you to express yourselves in unique ways.
  • Cooking together - Invite them to cook or bake with you. This can be a fun way to learn about each other's likes and dislikes and share stories related to food or cooking experiences. It’s also a rewarding way to enjoy the fruits of your labor together! Some children in care may also be coming from a home environment where they never learned how to cook, so you’re also helping teach them valuable life skills in a fun way.
  • Nature walks - Taking walks in a nearby park or nature reserve can be calming and offers a natural setting for conversation. It’s also a good opportunity to teach them about different plants, animals, or simply to enjoy the quiet together. For many kids, this may be a completely new experience. It’s also a great way to burn off restless energy and get a sound sleep.
  • Reading time - Share a book or story. For younger children, bedtime stories can be a comforting routine. For older children, picking a book to read together or discussing books they like can open up new avenues for conversation.
  • Game night - Organize a game night with board games or card games. It’s a fun way to engage and interact, helping to break the ice in a relaxed environment.

Remember that all activities should be from a place of low-pressure and no judgment — it’s easy to take certain life skills for granted, like knowing how to confidently cook or read.

Managing Your Own Self-Care

The first little while after welcoming a child in care isn’t just tough on the child — it can take a toll on you as well!

It's important to remember to take care of yourself, too. 

  • Accept your emotions - It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions as a foster parent. From joy to frustration, acknowledge your feelings without judgment. Recognizing your emotional state is the first step in managing stress effectively. Remember that failing does not make you a failure.
  • Seek support when necessary - Don’t hesitate to reach out to support groups, friends, family, or professionals who understand the foster care experience. Sharing your feelings and challenges with others can provide relief and valuable insights.
  • Practice mindfulness - Techniques such as meditation, yoga, or simple breathing exercises can help reduce stress and improve your mental well-being. Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference.
  • Stay active and eat well - Regular physical activity is essential for reducing stress and improving your mood. Find an activity you enjoy, like walking, cycling, or dancing, and make it a part of your routine.
  • Learn to say no - It’s okay to set limits and say no to requests that would stretch you too thin. Managing your energy and commitments is vital for self-care.
  • Delegate tasks - You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks when possible, whether it’s within your household or by seeking assistance from community resources.
  • Nurture relationships - Maintain connections with friends and family. These relationships can provide emotional support and a sense of normalcy outside of your foster care responsibilities.
  • Professional support - Consider speaking with a counselor or therapist who can provide professional support and coping strategies tailored to your needs.
  • Acknowledge your efforts - Recognize and celebrate the positive impact you’re making as a foster parent. Focusing on the successes, no matter how small, can boost your morale and motivation.

Learn More About Fostering In Our Upcoming Webinar

Looking to find out more about how you can help a child in care? 

If so, our upcoming webinar on foster care can help point you in the right direction.

By attending a Foster Parent Information Session Webinar and learning more about the fostering process, you can take the first step toward becoming a foster parent and providing a safe, loving, and supportive home for a child in need. 

Sign up for our webinar today to get started!

Sign Up For The Webinar

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