If you have been approved by the fostering panel and are ready to welcome a child or young person into your home, you might be feeling a mixture of emotions. While fostering a child can be an enjoyable experience, the role of being a foster carer is a major responsibility, so it’s understandable if you are also experiencing a degree of anxiety about the process.
It’s important to recognise that any concerns you have are because you care. The best people for fostering roles are passionate about what they do, and this is important - but it’s also important to manage those anxieties effectively, both for you and for the benefit of the children you look after.
One way to help mitigate concerns you have is to discuss them with your care provider. Another can be to get your home ready for when the child or young person coming to live with you arrives, so that you feel more organised and better prepared to welcome them.
A good place to start is by thoroughly decluttering and cleaning your home. Many children and young people in foster care come from situations where there may have been a great deal of disruption - so making your home clean and clutter-free can help them to feel more secure and settled from the moment they walk through the door. A thorough clean can also help you to get organised, too so that you always know where important items (such as key documents) are.
Your child will need their own spare room. While it’s tempting to decorate a room before the child or young person arrives, keep things neutral until they’re more settled. Allowing the child to have a say in how they decorate their room is a great way to help them feel more at home while allowing for some creative self-expression.
If no other children are currently living in your home, you will need to make some adjustments in order to make it safe and comfortable for them. Taking key safety measures can help to prevent accidents in the home and ensure that it is suitable for a foster placement.
Check your house from top to bottom to identify any potentially toxic substances that could potentially harm a child, including medications and cleaning products. Keep these safely under lock and key - and well out of reach. The same applies to sharp objects or anything a child could potentially injure themselves with – this is particularly important if they may be at risk of self harm.
Ensure your house is safe and secure by regularly checking alarms and other devices like smoke detectors (considering recent changes to them in Scottish Law). Make sure that windows and doors are safe for use (in cases of younger children at risk of falling, most modern windows come with a child safety catch). Also have a clear plan in place on what to do in the event of a fire, flood or other situation where you might need to act quickly.
While it’s important to teach children how to handle objects with care, it’s generally a good idea to pack away any breakables or items of sentimental value when looking after younger children just in case. Your focus as a foster carer should be on creating a , welcoming space where children can play - so try not to furnish or decorate your home with anything that could inhibit this.
Having some basic items at the ready can also help you prepare. In some cases, referrals can happen at short notice. A child may arrive within hours of receiving a call, so it helps to be prepared. A suggested list of things you might need includes:
Once they’re more settled, you can let the child or young person placed with you pick out some clothes they might like, or you can speak with their / social worker to find out what kind of things they might like. Small thoughtful gestures (such as preparing a Welcome book to help introduce your foster child to your family before you meet) can go a long way when fostering a child. Letting them choose a comfort item (such as a plush toy, if a younger child) can also help them to feel more secure in their new home.