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First Night Strategies

By Foster Parents in the Trenches

We asked experienced foster parents their best strategies for dealing with the toughest part of a new placement...and here are their First Night Strategies...

Allow the children to remain in the clothes/pyjamas from their last placement so that they smell familiar!

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Take them immediately to a store and let them buy one or two things that will be theirs forever. Many foster kids leave behind or lose precious objects and belongings. Having one thing to call one’s own... is important.

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Explain to them what they can/can’t do if they wake up in the night and when they wake up in the morning. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what you’re expected to do. Also explain the next day a little before bed.

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If you can prepare a meal with food that is familiar to the children – ask what they would like to eat... but don’t be surprised by either poor or large appetites. Show the children where food/drink is and offer them the opportunity to have some snacks at will... food is often an issue and kids will relax a bit if they know they will eat regularly and have access to some snacks. Let kids know what the rules are, for example eating only in the kitchen or no snacking after bedtime, etc. Let them know when meals will be with a schedule or some other timetable they can understand. Keep fruit out or handy so they can help themselves.

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Don’t “smother” or overwhelm the child with chatter or affection. No one likes this from someone they barely know!

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Try to find out the bedtime routine that they are used to and stick to it as much as possible for the first few nights.

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If there was chaos and no bedtime ritual... ASK what they would have liked... have new toothbrush and toothpaste (some kids will not have had regular access to these) brush your teeth with them so they know how to do it without it being obvious. Teach them a “normal” routine.

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Meet children on their level. Kneel down to look at them at their height when you first greet them.

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My friend immediately bathed the toddler who was placed in her home. To this day, (four years later) he is terrified of baths. That taught me to not do anything too dramatic their first night. I don’t put any huge demands on them, and love them as they are.

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We have developed a strange tradition (simply because we were getting in the car to go when the call came for our first few placements) of going to Costco after a quick tour of the house. We have dinner at the food court there and the child can pick out foods (and if needed clothes) that are comforting. It’s an easy way to get to know the child and it seems less stressful for them because they aren’t the total focus.

 

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