This is the first post in our Handy Guide to a Successful First Placement, sharing great advice from our experienced foster carers to help you prepare for your first foster child coming to live with you.

You’ve been approved at panel and receive that all-important call to let you know that we’ve received a referral for a child who we believe to be a perfect fit. You agree and after local authority approval, we start to make arrangements.

You’re probably feeling excited, but maybe also a little anxious. What are they going to be like? What should I say to them? Will they get on with my own children? Do I have everything I need?

First things first, relax. You were approved at panel for a reason; we believe in you and so should you. Remember, there’s an entire team available around-the-clock to support you and your family if you have any queries or concerns.

Next, grab a cup of tea and have a read through some of the great advice our foster carers have shared to help you prepare for your first placement.

Spend Time Preparing a Welcome Book
Your ‘Welcome Book’ will be one of the first things a young person sees about you and your family. Reassure them that you’re a warm, fun and friendly family, who will take care of them while they’re away from their birth family.

Include a short biography about you, your family and extended family, any pets and close friends who they are likely to meet, as well as photographs. Talk about your home, their bedroom and things you like to do as a family.

Leave a copy of your family book in the young person’s room so they can refer to it whenever they need to. For example, when they meet new people, they may forget who’s who and not want to ask again.

Prepare a Cosy, Neutral Bedroom
It’s often very tempting to decorate a room before the young person arrives, after all you just want to make them feel settled. Instead, keep the walls and bedding neutral until the child arrives. You can then ask them if they’d like to help decorate the room and choose the paint, bedding, posters and accessories together.

Find Out as Much as Possible
Ahead of agreeing to a child be placed with you, you’ll receive a referral which should have lots of information about the young person, including like and dislikes, favourite food and more.

Read this referral carefully and speak to your Supervising Social Worker or the Referrals Officer, if you want to find out more or have any specific questions. They will then liaise with the child’s local authority Social Worker to find out for you.

Small Gestures Make a Big Difference
If you find out from the referral that the child likes a certain cartoon character, why not purchase something based on this as a welcome gift. Or if their favourite food is pizza, make sure you give them pizza as an option for their first meal.

Don’t expect too much in return but know how these small gestures can go a long way to help them feel settled and safe, without overwhelming them.

Fostering Placement Standby Kit
Referrals are not always planned, in fact the majority are quite the opposite. You may receive the call and within several hours, a young person has arrived at your door. Be prepared and keep the essentials stocked up, so you’re always ready for a placement.

You’ll need things like fresh bed linen and towels, shampoo, a toothbrush, sanitary products and more. Many children come with very little possessions, so once you receive the call, you may also want to pop to your local supermarket to purchase some basic clothing, underwear, pyjamas and slippers too. Once the child’s settled, you could perhaps let the child pick some of their own clothes too.

When you receive a referral, don’t rush out to purchase lots of things for them just yet, as a referral doesn’t necessarily always result in that young person coming to live with you. Wait until we confirm.

Stock Up Your Freezer
Top up your freezer with a choice of 2 or 3 easy to prepare meals for the first day, as you may be busy with paperwork with your Supervising Social Worker, house tours, introductions and more.

Whilst not the healthiest option, things like chicken nuggets, chips and spaghetti hoops tend to be a safe bet – developing healthy eating habits can come later.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through our tips on how to prepare for a foster child. Remember, we’re here to support you every step of the way, so if you have any questions, please get in touch with your local team or Supervising Social Worker.

Next in the series we share advice on important things to do on the first day with a foster child to help them settle. We’ve also prepared an article to help you support your own children when you start fostering.