“I know you do, Sweetheart,” replied my wife. Bending down on her knees, my wife took the frightened and confused girl into her arms. “I know you do,” she whispered softly to the little one.
As your foster child will need time to adjust to her new home and environment, she will require time and patience from you. Along with this, she will also need your compassion, and your understanding during what is sure to be a very emotional and traumatic time for her. Remember, she is in a strange home, with strangers; your home and your family. To her, everything is strange and new; a new home, new food, new “parents,” and “brothers and sisters”, and new rules and expectations for her to follow. Perhaps to compound her confusion even further, a new school, along with students and teachers, as well, if she has moved from another school system. As you can imagine, it is likely that she may act out in a variety of ways as she struggles to understand the severe and sudden changes in her life. Your foster child may exhibit sudden outbursts of anger and aggressive behavior, extreme bouts of sadness and depression or even imaginative stories about his birth family. Indeed, it is not unlikely that she will exhibit all of these. Furthermore, she may even express no emotions, at all, and seem completely shut off to you, in an emotional manner. As foster parents, it is important that you do not take her behavior personally. After all, she is attempting to understand his feelings, and cope the best way she can, and perhaps the only way she knows.
When a child from foster care is placed in my home, I want to know as much about the child as I possibly can. The more information I have, the better I will be prepared to meet her needs, answer her questions, and help him the best way I can. Yet, there have been many times that I have had little to no information about the child. This can be not only challenging to all involved, but frustrating to both you and the child, as well. One of the difficulties that all encounter in the foster care system, whether it be foster parent, child, or caseworker, is the lack of information alongside the many questions that a placement brings with it. How long will the child remain in the foster home? When will the child see the parents next? How often can she visit with her family members? These are questions that will weigh heavy on your child’s mind. To be sure, they may also be questions that you and your own family will have, as well. After all, this is a change to your family household and family dynamics. Make sure you answer each question as honestly as you can, to both your foster child and your own children. If you are unsure of an answer, let him know it, and reassure him that you will attempt to find out and let him know.
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When you feel the time is ready, and as soon as possible, take some time to sit down with your new foster child, and discuss the rules of your home, as well as your expectations of him. Explain these rules and expectations in words that he can understand and appreciate. Let him know that he is an important part of the entire family, and that your family will need his help. Listen to him, and encourage him to ask questions, as he is bound to have many. It is likely, though, that he will be too nervous, scared, or embarrassed to ask. Make no mistake; this is an important time for your family, as you begin to form a relationship with your foster child, and he to your family. This may just be the very first family that he has had an opportunity to form a loving and family type bond with. Despite any displays of not wanting you to become interested in him, he will likely want your acceptance, and acceptance from your family. Spend time with him, and try to get to know him; his likes and dislikes, his fears and concerns, his hopes and dreams. If he likes sports, try to get him enrolled on a local team. Make available books that he might enjoy reading. Find out what his favorite meal is, and prepare it for him on occasion. The more you become interested in him, and the more you show that his interests are important, the better he will feel about himself, and his placement into your home.
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