What to expect in the early days?
When a foster youth is first placed in a new home, this is typically called the “honeymoon” phase. This is common for older foster youth, as they do their best to fit in and the foster family is full of excitement. The realities and challenges of foster care have not set in yet. It is important to familiarize the foster youth with family rules and procedures from the start.
Action items for the early days
Foster children have to maintain a schedule of regular doctor and dental visits. With a new placement, it will take the foster parent some time to find a suitable local doctor and dentist that accepts the foster child’s insurance. This is more difficult when searching for a mental health care provider that accepts the foster child’s health insurance.
Ideally, it is helpful for the foster parent to talk to teachers and possibly school administrators before the foster child is placed in a new school. Many teachers do not have prior experience having a foster child in their classroom and may need to be educated in what can be expected and what is helpful to the foster child.
With a new placement, foster children are overwhelmed with many new people in their life (new foster parents, teachers, doctors, siblings). The foster child will need some time to adjust to these new surroundings and people.
How to help biological siblings adapt
Just as the foster child is adjusting to an array of new experiences, the foster family is also adjusting to a new addition to their family. Sometimes this can be challenging and stressful for the birth children of the foster family. They may experience feelings of resentment of now having to share their family. It is important that birth children are reassured that their place in the family has not changed and they continue to feel the security and support of their family. They should be encouraged to share their feelings and reminded of the reward of being a foster family. Words of encouragement and support from extended family and community members is also helpful. In some cases, counseling can be considered to help the transition.