There are lots of reasons why a child may need a foster family.
Sometimes, their parents haven’t been able to provide them with a warm bed, clean clothing and food. Other children may have been hurt by a parent, or they haven’t been able to keep them safe. Whatever the reason, children will often feel quite scared about moving into a foster home.
Imagine how it would feel to be moved away from your family and everything you know. You’re moved into a new home with complete strangers and no idea when you’re going to see your family again. You probably wouldn’t feel great, would you?
Despite this, there are lots of things you can do to help your parents to make that child feel welcome.
1. Make a welcome book
Before you welcome a child into your home, you can help to create your family’s welcome book. This is something that will be given to your new foster siblings when they arrive, and helps them get to know who everyone is.
- It should be a little scrapbook filled with:
- Photos of everyone who lives in your house and a little bit of information about each of you.
- Photos of close friends and family who often visit you at home, plus a little information about them.
- What you like to do together as a family.
- Photos of your home, including their bedroom.
- Information about your local area and places you like to visit, so maybe your favourite park, leisure centre, and more.
You could even pick a couple of little gifts for them and leave them with the welcome book in their bedroom for when they arrive.
2. Find out what they like to do
We all have things that we like to do and other things that we don’t enjoy so much. So why not speak to them about the things you like to do and ask them what they used to do for fun too? Maybe you have some common interests. Music and tv shows are good places to start, but maybe they have a favourite football club and maybe they’re into video games.
The best thing to do when trying to make them feel welcome is to treat them just like you would a birth brother or sister. This means taking turns choosing which activities you’ll explore on any given day. Enjoying activities today can really help them feel like they are part of the family.
3. Show them it’s okay to ask for things
We all know what it’s like when you go somewhere new, with new people, and you’re afraid to ask for something. It’s often the same for children in care. They may feel scared to ask your parents for a drink or something to eat.
By asking your parents for these sorts of things in front of your foster sibling, they’ll be able to see that nothing bad comes from asking. This is the same with things like asking for help with homework and telling them when something’s gone wrong, like spilling your drink on the carpet.
4. Introduce them to your friends
Some children will stay at the same school, others may move to one that’s closer. Sometimes, this will be the same school as you. Some children may find it difficult to make new friends when they move school, and this can be very lonely for them.
If you are in the same school, it would be really nice of you to check in with them at breaktimes and introduce them to your friends – even if you’re not the same age. Try to include them in the conversation and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
5. Let them open up to you
Children in care will often speak to other children and teens in the house about how they’re feeling – sometimes before the adults. That’s because they trust you and feel safe talking to you. You probably won’t have the answers they are searching for, but just being there to sit and listen is often what they need in that moment.
Sometimes, they may tell you about something they have seen or something that has happened to them. This may be upsetting for them and for you to hear too. This is called a ‘disclosure’.
If a child tells you something like this, then you should encourage them to tell an adult too. If they don’t want to, you should ask if they would like some help speaking to your parents. If they refuse the help, you should let them know that you have to speak to your parents. This helps to make sure they receive the support they need.
6. Be guided by them
Every child is different. Some will want to play games and watch movies with you from the moment they arrive, others will prefer to spend some time on their own in their bedroom.
Try not to feel deflated if they don’t want to join in with family activities straight away. Instead, let them know what you’re planning to do and that they are always welcome to join if they wish.
Hopefully, with time and lots of patience, they’ll become more and more comfortable around you and your family.
May 2 2023
How Will Things Change Now That We Foster?
Are you and your family considering fostering, but worried about how it might impact your lives? Take a look at some of the ways that your family might change now that it has taken on this new role.