GUIDE FOR FOSTER AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS

Disclaimer: This article is a compilation of useful information and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice regarding fostering and adopting children. We strongly recommend that any person considering fostering or adopting children contact a professional beforehand.

Preparation.

It’s a good first step to prepare your home for the new addition to the household. This can include making sure the pantry is well stocked and a first aid kit is on-hand. Basically, you should plan ahead and be prepared to deal with, and provide for, the needs of your new child.

Find Out About Your Child’s Life.

Unless the adopted child is a newborn, he or she will come into your life with a history.  It’s best to talk to people who have been involved in your child’s life, including foster parents, social workers, and orphanage directors, to learn about your child’s life. Certain helpful facts would be learning his or her routine, things that can help calm them when agitated, and favorite games and toys.

If adopting a child from overseas, you may be required to spend an extended amount of time in that country. It’s advisable to use that time to learn as much as possible about your child’s history while there and start building an attachment with your child before heading home.

Your Child’s Bedroom.

Although many parents would like to decorate a baby’s or child’s new bedroom with bright colors and toys, unless you’re bringing home a newborn, it may be preferable to try and make the room calm and not overly stimulating. 

Also, babies and children who have lived in orphanages are generally accustomed to sleeping in large rooms with many other children, so it may be difficult for them to feel comfortable enough to settle in and sleep alone in the new room. In this case, it may be beneficial to transition slowly by temporarily moving the child’s crib in into your bedroom or placing a daybed for yourself in the child’s room until he or she feels comfortable and safe. 

Birth Parents.

As an adoptive parent you may have some type of relationship with your child’s birth parents if you’ve adopted the child domestically. As a result, you may have discussed a plan regarding how your child’s relationship with his or her birth parents will work moving forward. This can include whether letters, phone calls, or visits will be allowed, and it’s best to keep in mind that those decisions may be altered as needed.

You should also be mindful that your relationship with your child’s birth parents will change over time. In that regard, the first priority should always be your child’s needs and not those of the birth parents. However, you should be sensitive to what the birth parents might be experiencing during this transitional time.

Support System.

It’s a good idea to allow family and friends lend a hand when your new child comes home. Regardless of how a new child comes into your life, it means that your schedule will drastically change. As such, it’s best to set up a support system ahead of time. If someone asks to help, it’s best to give them a job, such as helping out laundry or bringing food to the house. And, if possible, it’s advisable to have someone reliable you can call for help at 2 AM if things become too difficult for you to handle alone. A support system can and should include other adoptive families because they will understand what you’re going through. 

Homecoming. 

            1. Don’t Go Overboard.

Although you will be excited to welcome the new addition, a big party might be overwhelming for a new foster or adopted child, so it’s best to keep these types of parties mellow for the first few weeks. During that time, family and friends should come by for short visits and may volunteer to help out as part of the support system.

            2. Bonding.

A newly adopted baby or child needs as much time with you as possible, especially within the first few weeks. This will help the child feel safe and comfortable with you as a new parent.  

It’s also important to not let too many friends and family hold the child (especially a newborn) because it may cause confusion. The child needs to learn that you are the parent, caregiver and protector.

           3. Adjustment.

It may take time for your child to feel comfortable and safe in the new environment.  Keep in mind that the child is being separated from everything they’ve known up until that point.

If you are adopting an older baby, toddler or older child, it might be beneficial to send a care package to the child before you meet, if allowed. The care package could include photos of you and your family. 

          4. Quality Time.

Bonds and attachments with adopted and foster children don’t always happen instantly. Building the relationship takes work and effort over an extended amount of time. Therefore, it’s best to try and schedule plenty of quality time to spend with your child and build your relationship.

          5. Don’t Be Hard On Yourself.

Remember to maintain your own wellbeing. You will need breaks sometimes to recharge. If you have a partner or spouse, it makes sense to take turns tending to the baby at nighttime so each of you will get a good night’s sleep at least every other night. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your support system for help with chores so you can spend more time with your child.

Overall, be ready for the unexpected. It’s impossible to plan for every problem and
situation, so be mentally prepared to handle those unforeseen events.