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A significant part of preparing your home for a foster child is preparing yourself. A prospective foster parent must prepare his or her heart to deal with the sacrifice, the pain (sometimes foster children have truly tragic stories), and the joy.

It’s also important to see to it that the child is comfortable in his or her new foster home. Of course, if you are prepared mentally and emotionally, that adds greatly to the child’s comfort. There are some practical things, too, that you can do to make the foster home a place of refuge and love.

* Know your state’s requirements

Much of the physical aspects of your home – types of toys, sleeping accommodations, etc. – are determined by the state. An inspector or case worker will come to your home and determine whether it is suitable for a foster child, looking for proper safety measures (such as smoke alarms), number of bedrooms (some states require a separate bedroom for each foster child), etc. It will make the process go a lot more smoothly if you find out your state’s requirements ahead of time.

* A welcoming home

Besides state regulations, you probably want your home to project a welcoming and peaceful atmosphere. Try to keep the household quiet on the day of the foster child’s arrival. Let your children know they will need to be quiet and calm, but not stifled. Make sure the house is free of clutter which can be overwhelming to a child who is already feeling traumatized. If you have pets, especially big dogs, put them outside or in a separate room at first.

* Put valuables away

Keep any “tempting” items, such as jewelry, electronics, or other valuables out of sight. As you adjust to this new child and discover his strengths and weaknesses, you will learn where you can relax the rules and where you need to tighten them up.

* The child’s own space

Remember that a foster child is going through something traumatic, and may have known little but trauma for most of her life. She will need a space of her own where she can go to process her thoughts and feelings when she feels overwhelmed. Prepare this special space, most likely a bedroom, by making it welcoming and peaceful – a comfortable chair, a neatly made bed, some books, and maybe some stuffed animals. Quiet, soft toys are a good place to start.

* Preparing your other children

Of course there will be a period of adjustment, and some bumps along the road are to be expected. To prevent any big set-backs, though, it is a good idea to prepare your children for the foster child. Let them know how things are going to be different, and why you are taking a foster child in to your home.

The whole family can participate to make the fostering experience a joyful and rewarding one for everyone involved.

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