1: What Gifts Would They Like in a Welcome Pack?
When you welcome a new child into your home, it's a good idea to have a welcome pack ready for them. The question is, what do you pack into it? You can usually determine what they may like by their age. For example, six-year-olds may like toys and stuffed bears, whereas teenagers may find school stationery and tech more appropriate. The truth is, you won't know for sure until you get to know them, so ask your social worker to find out what they might want in a welcome pack.
As well as some little gifts, it’s also useful to put together a ‘welcome book’ which should include some information and photos of you and your family, your home, the bedroom they’ll be sleeping in, the local area, any pets and regular visitors to your home.
2: What Holidays Do They Celebrate?
There is a lot of cultural diversity in foster care. Some children might celebrate Christmas, others Hannukah, and others may celebrate Eid. Whatever culture or background your child is from, it's important to respect it and help them celebrate when the time comes. Ask sooner rather than later so you can prepare in good time.
3: What Food Do They Like?
Food is an icebreaker. Cook the right meal, and you will instantly bond with someone – even a child! By asking what food they like, you can prepare by getting the right ingredients in and cooking it for them. For some children, certain foods may even be a comfort to them, even if that comfort food is simply peanut butter on toast.
4: What Food Do They Dislike?
It's just as important to know what food the child in your care doesn't like as it is to know what food they like – if not more so! They might hate peanut butter, tomatoes, or milk – it doesn't matter. What matters is that you know sooner rather than later so that you can avoid disappointment at the dinner table.
5: What Are Their Hobbies?
Once you start fostering a child, you must start learning about all their different hobbies and interests. Doing so will give you access to their lives – what they like doing, what they don't, and everything in between. Before they settle with you, it's a good idea to ask about their favourite hobbies. That way, you can prepare. For example, you might learn that they love to paint, so you could prepare for that by purchasing a paint set.
6: What is Their Favourite Colour?
Asking about a favourite colour might seem insignificant, but it's helpful information for looking after a child and making them happy. It might just be a colour, but you could positively impact their lives by painting their bedroom walls that colour (for long-term fostering) or by getting them gifts in that particular shade. Little gestures like this make an enormous difference overall.
7: Do They Like Music? If so – What Type?
Music has healing powers. Even on the worst days, it can lift a mood. If your foster child has anxiety around contact, music can be a way to bond with them or at least help them relax. To do so, you need to know what music they like.
If the child is old enough, ask questions about what type of music they like. Once you know, you could even make them a playlist for when they feel like listening to music – whether that's alone or in the kitchen with you!
8: What Are Their Friends Called?
Depending on how long you care for the child, it can be a good idea to get to know their friends – starting with their names. Little pieces of information like this can help you establish a better bond. For example, you could ask them how their friends are or if they plan on hanging out with them soon. Ask for their names in advance so you can ask these types of questions.
9: Do They Like Pets?
The local authority should have already checked whether it’s appropriate to place a child with you if you have pets, but this question will help you understand the child’s preferences around animals and if there’s anything they may not be comfortable with. For example, they may not like when a dog gets excited when playing or they may not like cats in their bedroom. By asking this question, you’ll be able to accommodate their preferences and keep both your child and pets happy.
10: What Are They Good At?
One of the most important questions to ask about a child coming into your care is – what are they good at? Due to traumatic experiences, children in care may have self-confidence issues and anxiety, and they might struggle to focus on their strengths. As a foster parent, it is up to you to help them see the best in themselves, so ask about their strengths. It can be anything, from being a great reader to running really fast. Once you know what they are good at, you can encourage it and give them lots of praise, which will help them flourish.
The more you know about the child in your care, the better. When you start fostering a new child, it is important to try and understand as much you can about them. Even seemingly insignificant bits of information – like who their friends are – can help you establish a better connection with them. So, ask these questions to start your fostering journey the right way. It will make the experience much smoother.