7 Essential Things to Do When You First Meet Adopted/Foster Child

Dawn Davenport


What to do when you 1st meet your foster child

When adopting or fostering a child past infancy, parents anticipate the first meeting and worry about what to do and say that will put their child (and themselves) at ease. I loved the very specific advice that Dr. Karyn Purvis shared on this Creating a Family show.

8 Things to Do Within the First 30 Minutes of Meeting Your Child

  1. Lower yourself to the height of the child when you are talking.
  2. Gently and respectfully look him in the eye. If he looks away, he is expressing discomfort with the intensity. You look away when he does, then gently reestablish eye contact.
  3. If your child does not speak your language, learn a few phrases in his language that you can say when you first meet him, such as “hello”, “I’m so glad to meet you”, “Do you need to use the bathroom”, and “Are you hungry”.
  4. When you bring the child to your home for the first time, remember the power of smell to soothe a frightened child. A great trick from Dr. Karyn Purvis is to freeze some cookie dough ahead of time so you can pull it out to bake as soon as the child arrives.
  5. Show the child around your house as soon as possible.
  6. Your goal is to give your child a voice as soon as she arrives by giving her simple choices. For example, as you are showing her around the house ask if she would like to hold your hand or walk beside you.
  7. If your child does not speak your language, provide a picture board to help him express his needs and wants. Arrange for a translator sometime that first week.
  8. Provide food and water soon after arrival because food can calm a frightened child, and research has shown that children from hard places are often dehydrated.

Newly adopted or foster children’s brains are on fire with fear. Our job as a parent is to calm this fear from the moment you first meet.

We talked about ways for parents to calm these fears, how to stay connected while disciplining our kids, and so much more in this week’s Creating a Family Radio show with the wonderful Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, and the founder and Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development. I’ve been doing this show a long time and this my friends is one of the best.


Links to resources mentioned in today’s show:

Image credit: Francisco Osorio

24/09/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Other Adoption Resources, Other Fostering Resources | 11 Comments

11 Responses to 7 Essential Things to Do When You First Meet Adopted/Foster Child

  1. Avatar Stefan Bradley says:

    I like that you explained how the scent of your home can soothe a child who might be feeling uncomfortable. My wife and I hope to become foster parents someday so that we can help a child feel loved when they may need it the most. I’ll be sure to keep this tip in mind if we are ever fortunate enough to welcome a child into our home someday.

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  3. Avatar Laura Curtis says:

    Thanks for the tips! We are getting two new placements (5mo and 20mo) very soon, so I’m taking notes.

  4. Avatar S Rish says:

    Hi! My husband and I were able to adopt our son, after months of him entering our home under foster care. One thing that really seemed to help him, even at a young age(17 months) was having a “safety” item. Prior to him entering his new home, we purchased and gave him a stuffed lamb. This way he had something that “belonged” to him….permanently. He still carries “Lovey” today.

  5. Avatar Tabitha Zurita says:

    We are about to adopt a child and waiting for the call that we can come get him (any day!). I think about the first meeting all the time. Thanks for these tips!

  6. Avatar Tabitha Baker says:

    These were so simple, yet so helpful! My hubby and I are currently embarking on our own adventure as we are processing to become foster parents. I loved the idea of baking cookies to make the place more inviting! Who doesn’t love a warm chocolate chip cookie and milk!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      I know Tabitha, right! Such a good and practical idea. I especially like the idea of have a stash in the freezer. Of course, with me, they wouldn’t last long.

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