How to welcome a foster child into your home

Welcoming a foster child into your home is not always easy–in fact, it is almost never easy.  This is likely the worst day of the child’s life. No one is at their best when they are scared and confused. These first days are crucial for the child and for your family.

The whole family is impacted by the addition of a foster child. For the children already in your home, making room for a new and frightened child is an adjustment. Heck, for that matter, it’s an adjustment for the adults in the home regardless how well they have been prepared and how ready they think they are.

Tips for Welcoming a Foster Child Into Your Home

It helps to be prepared in advance for welcoming a foster child into your home. Here are some tips from the experts—foster parents and Dr. John Degarmo, a leading expert in foster care and foster parenting.

  1. Get as many answers to questions as you can about the child, what happened to bring them into care, and past history of abuse and neglect. If possible, get this information before the child comes to your house.
  2. Make your house warm and inviting. Dr. Karyn Purvis recommends have some fresh baked cookies or have the cookie batter in the freezer so you can make them with the child.
  3. Introduce yourself as whatever you want the child to call you: Miss Susan, Aunt Susan, Mrs. Smith, Susan, etc. (I personally don’t recommend first names without some additional label of “Miss” or “Aunt”.) Don’t expect nor request the child to call you Mom and Dad.
  4. Give the child a tour of the house and her bedroom.
  5. Don’t expect any specific reaction from the child. Be prepared for anger or withdrawal. Recognize that the child likely does not want to be in your home, regardless of the reason for his removal from his family.
  6. You’re mantra is: Roll with the punches. Flexibility is key, especially within the first few weeks a new foster child is in your home. The child’s world is topsy-turvy and you will have less information and control than you want. Prepare for this by lowering expectations.

I think you will really enjoy this interview with Dr. John, author of The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home; Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey; and Love and Mayhem: One Big Family’s Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption.


Another Creating a Family resource you will enjoy:

Have you fostered children before? What tips would you add for surviving the first month?