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Transitioning a child into your home

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Transitioning your “new” child into your home should be a gradual process. Remember that you are far more excited than your new child is. Your child is scared. Moves have become a way of life. While you see this as an exciting new adventure in your life, your child is wondering how long THIS one is going to last. Be sensitive to these emotions, and respectful of your child’s wishes.

Transitions should take place over a long period. They should begin you meeting your child in the foster home. This allows your child some sense of control. While they can’t control whether or not they move to your home, you can meet on “safe” ground.

First visit

The day you have waited for is finally here. Your visit with your child. I can’t tell you how your child will react to your visit. I went through two different extremes.

The first time we met our son, he was scared, and did not want to see us at all. He was in a home with his biological brother, and didn’t want to leave him. He spent the entire 2 hour visit in his bedroom, looking at us through a crack in the door. We barely saw his face.

When we met our foster son, K, he was standing on the porch of his foster home, jumping up and down, and yelling “My new Mommy & Daddy are here.” He was completely outgoing, and wanted my complete attention.

Little did I know that the reaction of both boys were warning signs of things to come, but that will come later.

On you first visit, if you want to bring a gift, keep it small. A stuffed animal, or other age appropriate item is sufficient. You don’t want to set up a pattern where the child expects gifts from you every time there is a visit. You may want to bring a game, or deck of cards along to give you something to do with her.

Use this time to get to know her and to get an idea of what may lie ahead. There are some “red flags” to look for that may indicate future behavior problems.

  • A child who comes running to you, wants to sit in your lap, and seems overly clingy, or crying when you leave. This is usually an indication that a child has been through many moves, and does not have an attachment to the current foster parents. She is a “love the one you’re with” kind of child.
  • A child who wants nothing to do with you. This child has also probably been through numerous moves, but chooses to guard her heart by indifference.
  • An appropriate, or healthy, response would be for your child to be cautious of you, and look to the foster parents for guidance. This would be an indication of some good attachment to the foster parents.
  • How does your child respond to redirection or correction? Is she oppositional or pretending she doesn’t hear? Does she tantrum?
  • How does she treat her foster parents? Does she use manners and ask politely, or is she defiant and controlling?
  • A child who does not cry when injured, or cries excessively over even minor injuries.
  • A child who will not make eye contact with you.
  • Affectionate with strangers while you are out in public. Some children do not have appropriate boundaries, and will talk to anyone, or hug people, even strangers.

Credits: Kelly L. Killian

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