How to prepare for a foster care placement

Preparing for a new placement can differ depending on what type of care you’re providing for a young person in need.  

If you’re a carer providing long-term care, you’ll usually have more time to prepare before a young person comes into your home. Though, for emergency carers, it’s not uncommon to have as little as an hours’ notice before someone is placed into your care.  

We’ve put together a bit of a guide to help you prepare for a placement. 

Preparing as a first-time or primary carer 

When you’re a first-time or primary foster carer, it’s important to be mentally and physically prepared for the road that lies ahead. As you prepare for a child or young person to come into your home, you would have already completed all your relevant carer training. Your practitioner will also be available to answer any other questions you might have, including information about the child(ren) you’ll be caring for. 

Although your foster care practitioner or agency will brief you on what you need to know, here are some questions you might want to ask, if they haven’t been covered:

-Does the child have a visitation schedule for supervised visits with their biological parents? If so, who's responsible for travel to and from appointments?

-Does the child display any behaviours that may affect their own safety or the safety of those within my home? 

-Has the child had any other placements? If so, what can I do to make sure their stay is a positive experience? 

-Does the child have a Cultural Care plan? 

-Does the child require any support with their physical, social, behavioural or developmental needs? 

-Does the child have any medical needs or considerations that I need to know of? 

If there’s anything else that you would like to know about the child coming into your home, just ask your foster care practitioner. They’ll be there to guide and support you throughout the process. Your practitioner may not have the answers to all of your questions straight away, but they will do their best to find out.    

There are plenty of other ways to prepare yourself, your home and other family members to ensure the experience is as safe and welcoming as possible for the foster child. This may include: 

Creating a cosy room for them

Depending on their age and any other information you might have about them, it might be beneficial to provide them with a night light and toys. 

Store medications, cleaning supplies and other potentially hazardous items securely

They should be locked and out of reach of children. You may also want to move any sentimental items and store them in a safe location. 

Prepare your family

Make sure that your family is prepared to accommodate a new person in your household.

Make sure that you have a support network on standby

Whether it's friends, family or other carers in your carer network. Make sure that you have somebody to talk to.

Have a supply of toys and entertainment

Ensure they're suitable for different ages and interests. Other items to have on standby include clothes (you may need to ask for their size), toiletries, stationary, kid-friendly food and snacks, and storage for their belongings. 

Be prepared that things will not always go as planned

It's normal for things not to go as planned, but you will have ongoing support and resources to help you navigate alternate pathways to success.

Get your home clean and tidy

This will help give yourself, family and that special new young person a fresh new start.

Preparing as an emergency carer 

While you might not have as much time to prepare for an emergency placement as you would with a longer-term one, there are still some things that you can do to make your home accommodating for a child or young person – even with short notice. 

Make sure that you have a clean and tidy bedroom ready. You might also find it’s helpful to have a supply of toys, entertainment and toiletries (relevant for a range of age groups) on hand. 

As soon as you learn about a new child coming into your home, you might benefit from asking your carer agency all you need to know about the child. This will help you best prepare to make their experience a positive one.  Please remember that if a child is new into care, there may be limited information about the child available.   

Whether you’re welcoming a child into your home on an emergency or longer-term basis, your foster care practitioner will support and guide you every step of the way. There is also support available outside of business hours so you can always access support during those key first days of a placement.    

More information about foster care 

For more information about being a foster carer, please visit our resource library. Here, you can access more information about how to talk to your family about caring for a child in need, what the role of a foster care entails, training information and more. 

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