BECOMING A CARER
15 tips to prepare your home for your foster child
At a glance
- Have self-regulation tools available
- Have a welcome bathroom pack
- Give the young person their own mug
- Create a space to retreat to
- Have healthy food available
- Make your young person’s favourite foods
- Have their bedroom ready but allow for personal touches
- Map out family life in your home for your young person
- Include a night light
- Provide portable chargers and cords
- Have clean pyjamas and slippers for the young person
- Give them a torch
- Have a way to start a conversation
- Respect the young person’s possessions
- Have a weighted blanket available
- A little bit more about Lika
Foster carers will often talk about welcoming a young person into their homes for the first time and having to prepare your home as being one of the most nerve-racking experiences of their lives.
It’s common to worry whether your young person will like you, feel comfortable with you, and feel welcomed in your home, and to fear that they will want to leave.
The secret to calming those understandable nerves is to be as prepared as possible.
Now, every match between a young person and a foster carer is different, which means different approaches are needed to prepare and welcome a young person, depending on their needs, history, age and experience of adults.
But, even so, foster carers (with the help of Lika) are often able to plan several steps in advance before the young person arrives.
Here are 15 therapeutically inspired steps to help prepare any foster carer for the arrival of a young person into their home.
Have a selection of fidget toys available around the house for the young person. You might call this your ‘sensory and grounding box’. These toys are self-regulation tools that can improve focus, lessen anxiety, help distract in an emotionally difficult moment, and soothe and calm.
These can be incredibly helpful for neurodivergent children or those who have experienced trauma. You could have squish toys, play dough, fidget spinners, or small toys that are bright, have different textures, and are stretchy and moveable. The pound shop has a wealth of options!
Have a welcome bath and hygiene pamper pack ready for a young person to have in their room. Face masks, bubble bath, hairbrush, new toothbrush, smelly treats, a fresh flannel.
Purchase a young person’s hot drink mug which is positive-themed with a picture or saying. Hot drinks help to calm, soothe, and connect with the person making them.
Create a retreat space in the home—like a beanbag, pop-up tent or hammock. It’s just a small, cosy place in the house—somewhere your young person can use to soothe themselves if they’re feeling hypervigilant and need to bring their cortisol levels down.
Have a bowl of fruit (or something healthy) on the kitchen counter that is always accessible to a young person. Make sure your young person knows that there is always food available and permission is not needed to eat it. For children who overeat and do not recognise when they feel full, this should initially be avoided until they have been able to connect the feeling of full to their body. This will take time, consistency and patience.
Find out your young person’s favourite dinners and prepare them for the first few nights of their initial week. Nothing welcomes a young person more than making their favourite foods. Include them in future shops and meal planning so this is collaborative and meaningful. We want to avoid battles over mealtimes where possible.
Often the young person’s bedroom will be ready for fostering. However, allow space for the young person to buy something for their room that makes it their own. It’s also a way of connecting. A new lamp, duvet cover, floor mat, and wall art. Some foster carers love their young person to pick the colour of their room. (I hope you’re good at painting!)
Place a clear house routing on the fridge. This helps a young person know who is where, and when—especially if it’s quite a busy household. This helps a young person to plan who they need to be around, what to expect and to help name to their carer what they might need to manage these transitions in the week.
Give your young person an easy-to-use night light. These are great for all ages of children (always think about the stage of development, not age). For some of our young people, depending on their history, being alone in their rooms at night or trying to sleep can feel difficult. Soft light can help manage some of the anxieties with bedtime.
Have a portable charger and cord available for the young person to use throughout their time with you. Often our young people run out of charge, creating a challenge with contacting them and getting home for curfew on time. Have a central point for charging in the communal area, where all devices are charged and left overnight.
Have a fresh pair of PJs and slippers available for the young person. This promotes safer caring practices, night-time routines, and comfort as being an important part of the way your house operates and shows your young person that you’re thinking of them – even before you meet.
It’s handy to include a torch in the young person’s room. Some young people can feel self-conscious getting up in the night and turning on lights and waking up everyone. A torch can help alleviate some of this.
Use something in your home which represents a ‘safety object’. This is an object (toy, mug, book) that is introduced to the young person as something which represents them saying “I need a conversation; I’m not feeling ok and need something”.
Some young people can’t verbalise what they need, so in the early stages having something that represents that they need contact with the carer can be helpful. Agree on where the object is left (kitchen counter or outside their bedroom door) and what it is.
Don’t wash or throw away possessions that a young person owns without their permission. Some of our children do not own much and hold memories connected to smells and objects. If something is worn out or needs a clean, we might want to throw it out or clean that object. However, if we do so without permission, we might inadvertently disconnect a child to a time, person and experience in their life.
Have a weighted blanket available for the young person. These blankets are designed to provide deep touch pressure stimulation, a therapeutic technique that involves applying gentle pressure to the body to increase the release of serotonin and melatonin while decreasing cortisol, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. And those are things we want our young people to have in abundance!
Lika is a therapeutic fostering agency, rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Every decision we take is based on systemic family therapy principles. That means relationships, openness and honesty are at the heart of everything we do. All Lika foster carers receive extensive training in Systemic Family Therapy principles and therapeutic parenting techniques.
It’s similar to the training a newly qualified social worker receives (although not quite as technical) — so you’ll be fully prepared for your first placement and be viewed as a professional foster carer in your own right.
Being a Lika foster carer means always receiving specialised and consistent support from our expert team of professionals.
Your support will include:
- 1 to 4 weekly supervisions with your supervising social worker to talk through and understand the needs of your young person
- 24/7 out-of-hours access to one of the Lika team, so you’re never unsupported if things feel difficult
- Access to Lika’s team of skilled and knowledgeable Systemic Psychotherapist Consultants and Systemic Social Work Practitioners, who are never stuck for ideas on how to support
- Virtual monthly foster carers support meeting, led and chaired by experienced foster carers
- Virtual fortnightly Therapeutic Family Consultations, facilitated by one of our psychotherapists and open to all our agency’s foster carers
- Membership to the National Association of Therapeutic Parents and The Fostering Network
- Life coaching for foster children, birth children and foster carers
- Our Mentor Support Scheme, which partners new foster carers with more experienced foster carers
- Free training for fostering support networks. (Your family and friends are welcome to join any of the training Lika offers.)
- Access to Lika’s Support Workers, depending on the level of need for the young person
- Access to Lika’s Educational Consultant, who can offer ideas and advocacy in supporting young people to achieve in education
- Help from Lika’s Systemic Social Work Practitioners/Therapists, who can undertake skilled direct work without waiting lists for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- 14 to 21 days of paid respite (depending on complexity) to recharge your batteries and have some space for self-care.
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re in the London boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Bexley, Bromley, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Ealing, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster, Enfield, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames, Waltham Forest, Harrow, Essex, Nuneaton, Tameside