When foster children are brought into foster families, you never know what they have been through. This may be their first time in the foster care system or it may be something they have been in and out of all of their lives. Whatever the case may be, it's your job as a foster parent to keep them safe now. If you want to take a few extra steps, you can also do a bit to try and let them know they are now part of a family, even after they leave.
Give Them Personal Space
Perhaps you know what it is like to never have your own personal space. Maybe you were part of the foster care system or for some other reason never had any place to call a true home as a kid. Everyone needs some personal space to call their own. While you may be limited in how you can manage that, below are some details you might be able to address. Keep in mind that these children need personal space because they need to be recognized as individuals rather than just another number in the system.
- Read the file and try to provide a small welcome gift on their bed. For example, if a child likes to play cards, place a pack of cards with a short note on their bed. Be sure to include their name on the note.
- Provide room dividers. If you have limited space and some children have to share a room, consider hanging a divider of some sort between the beds. This gives the children some privacy as well as some sense of personal space.
- Offer things to help them create a personal space. Offer a pillow of their favorite color and headphones so they can block out the noise outside their area.
Treat Them as Your Children
Foster children are sometimes resistant to closeness because it's unfamiliar to them or they may have experienced loss and don't want to do it again. Whether they stay for one day or several years, your home should be the kind of home they remember fondly and you should remain a type of "parent" in their mind. Consider how you would want your own child treated and use some of the methods below.
- Plan a day for you and the child so you can get to know each other a bit.
- Pay attention to and develop an interest in their hobbies or interests.
- Be reliable and approachable. Every kid needs rules and a schedule, but they also need to know they can come to you if they just want to talk. In some cases, this is what foster kids need more than anything.
Being a foster parent is a big responsibility. Some of the children you see come from abusive homes or have experienced exceptional losses. If nothing else, you can make your home into the place they think of later on, when they don't want to be wherever they happen to be. Contact Our Children's Homestead for more information.