So, you’ve finished your training and been to panel, congratulations! Your fostering journey is about to really get started with the arrival of your first foster child. Whether you have been lying in wait for weeks with everything and anything ready to go, or you are approaching things more casually, as a new carer you need to know what’s coming. Here are five tips to enable that first placement to be as authentic and successful as possible.
Know Who Your Support Network Is
Your support network will be an essential asset during the first placement and every one that follows. This includes your social worker and your child’s support system too. Sometimes, the social worker comes from the local authority and other times they come from an independent contract agency like fosterplus.co.uk. Regardless, you will get to know them quite well over the course of the placement and they are a key person to lean on. Support networks also include your partner, family members and friends with a good ear and no judgment in their heart.
Try to Pin a New Routine As Soon As Possible
Regardless of the age of the foster child, routine is essential. It really is hard to deny the importance or a strong routine for any child. It is the thing that makes them feel anchored, safe, and regulated. You can use visual aids (useful for all ages) to let your foster child know where you’re all going to be and what the week will look like. This can note key events like contact with birth family or homework obligations.
Establish Non-Negotiable Boundaries
As well as a predictable routine, try to really cement boundaries early on. Non-negotiable boundaries are things like the language used around physical violence; for instance “we do not hurt each other in this house”, etc. It should always be followed up by a positive affirmation such as, ‘…we can use our words and ears to work together instead.” With clear language and expectations, the child will (in theory) eventually feel more secure to express themselves within a safer framework.
Prepare Your Space
Every foster child needs their own bedroom, and this should be 110% ready to go before they move in. It will need a bed, some drawers, and a neat, tidy décor. There are other areas of the house to prepare too, for instance, stocking up the food cupboards and ensuring there are essential bathroom supplies. The last thing you want to do is a mad dash to the supermarket and preparation will help enable a smooth transition in the first week.
Work on Trust
It is good to be realistic about trust. It may never be established while the child lives with you, or you might begin to scratch the surface and build some trust bridges as you get to know one another. Regardless, it should be something to work on together and there will always be strategies to use from your training.
New foster carers have an exciting journey ahead of them. Take the time to listen to the individual circumstances and trust your instincts to guide you.