Helping a Child to Settle Into Your Home

All children will have been given information about you, your family and your home before they are placed with you unless it is an emergency placement. They may have also visited you before the decision to place them was taken and may have had an introduction period where they were able to express their view about living with you.

This will hopefully help in settling a child in but all children will cope differently with either coming into care or a placement move.

Check the information given to you from the child's social worker; ask them if there is anything you are not clear about before the placement starts.

Talk to all other children in the household about the new child to help them adjust also.

Some will need more reassurance than others; some may be withdrawn or be difficult for a time.

It is important that you are calm and reassure the child setting clear boundaries. If the child is withdrawn give them space but also offer times when they can talk to you or spend time with you.

It may be important to give some attention to the child's physical appearance and belongings. Depending upon the circumstances that have brought the child into Accommodation or Care, there may be key deficits in their belongings which need to be:

  • Obtained from home or a previous carer;
  • Renewed; or
  • Freshly acquired, including clothes, toiletries, educational equipment (a school bag), etc.

However, this may require sensitivity and patience in some areas (Avoid appearing critical or dismissive).

If the placement with you is a short-term or temporary placement, when the child 'moves on' make sure that their belongings are moved with appropriate luggage. A child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers (see NYAS, My Things Matter Report).

If times get difficult it is important for them to know that it's their behaviour which you object to and not them. Don't expect things to change quickly, it may take time. You need to tell them that it is ok to be angry but it's what they do with that anger, e.g. go for a walk, and do an activity depending on their age.

Some children may be on their best behaviour and be fearful to show how they feel in case you send them away.

Your Supervising Social Worker is there to help you through this - remember, discuss the difficulties as they happen and keep a record!

Your own family will also take time to adjust. Your children may feel neglected by you because some of your time is given to another. Your children may copy bad behaviour. It will be useful to look at all this when you are developing your Safer Caring family policy. See Developing a Safer Caring Plan. You should explain to the child the general rules of the house and what is expected of them.

The following information will be useful and should be gathered from the child's social worker and parents where possible

  • What the child prefers to be called;
  • What do they like to do?
  • If it is a very young child, do they have a dummy or a comforter - like a teddy or a blanket? What is it called? Older children may have a comforter but may be embarrassed about anyone knowing;
  • Clothes and belongings are important; if they bring any with them don't throw them away, (some items may be a part of the child's memories). As appropriate, encourage them to choose with you what to wear;
  • A child may be uncomfortable bathing or undressing in front of a stranger – be sensitive and find out what the child is used to;
  • People who are important to the child and their relations to him including friends;
  • Food - likes, dislikes, routine, special religious or cultural preferences;
  • Bedtime routines;
  • Skincare;
  • Pets, likes and dislikes and fears;
  • Hobbies and interests, clubs and activities;
  • Fears;
  • Medical information and allergies;
  • Any communication difficulties;
  • Any specific equipment e.g. if the child has a disability.

If the placement is for a Disabled Child in order to make sure the child settles, you should:

  • Speak to the child's Social Worker to get as much information as possible about the child and their disability:
    • If need be seek specialist advice/feedback from other professionals who know the child, (e.g. a medical or CAMHS practitioner; teacher, etc.);
    • Treat them as children firstly and foremostly;
    • Be clear about the child's strengths;
    • Discuss with the child/young person the areas that you have an 'enabling role' with them.
  • Be clear with the child where they will need your assistance, support and time – seeing some of these as areas for their future development;
  • Ensure you have support from your Supervising Social Worker;
  • Look at where there are relevant & appropriate community parents'/carers' support groups;
  • Have realistic, expectations of the child and set clear boundaries;
  • Stress the positive things a child can do;
  • Praise the child, and reassure them (as appropriate);
  • Encourage the child to take part in a wide variety of activities;
  • Enable/support them to play and mix with other children;
  • Help them become as independent as possible;
  • Engage in training opportunities that will broaden your skills.