“For this child I have prayed and God has granted me what I asked of Him.” I Samuel 1:27
It is such an exciting time when you bring a child home. You are so ready to have the waiting over. If you have other children at home they are ready to have a real body with the name they have heard over and over. You have readied your hearts; you most likely have readied a room, and had a great time shopping for special items for this new child of yours. You have prayed for this child and dreamed of their future. Your preparation has been careful and loving. You are ready!
As you embark on the journey to pick up the child, whether from a foreign country or the local social services office there are some things to consider as you bring a child home. One of the most important things to consider is that while you feel very prepared for this next step this may be totally a new thought to your child.
The following are some helpful suggestions to consider before you do your pick-up trip.
1. When you pick up the child ask as many questions as possible about their routine. This will help you to know what is “normal” to them. If you are able to bring an object such as a blanket, stuffed animal, etc. from their previous home this will help to have some thing that is familiar. In a fostering situation if you have an opportunity to speak with a willing birthparent about this it will also help them to know that you care about their child. Visiting the orphanage a child has been living at would allow you to see how life is handled through the day.
2. Take a good look at your commitments beforehand. Because of the pace we tend to live at in all likelihood some thing or some things will need to be scaled back. While you are used to the busy pace a child trying to get used to a new family, home, food, smells and perhaps a new language will possibly find it downright scary.
3. Stay close to home. For an extended period of time it would be reassuring to the child to stay home. Give them time to explore, get comfortable, learn what is expected of them, and get in their routine. Even a very young child is comforted by routine and an older child will need time to adjust to a new routine. You may expect some things of
them that they have never heard of before. Staying home also help will help you and the child to work on bonding without them being overloaded with more newness.
4. Keep life simple. This is probably not a good time to host a party. Have family over a little at a time so as not to overwhelm your new family member.
5. Remember you are the parent. While everyone will want to hold and cuddle a younger child that child needs to know who to go to when they have needs to be met. Whether it be cuddling, food, or comfort that person needs to be you and your spouse. This doesn’t mean another child in your home can never hold them but overall you need to be the person on the frontline. Remember a child that is used to many different caregivers isn’t necessarily going to seem to mind being passed around so they need to learn who the go-to-guy is. (That’s you - the parent!). An example of this is: the new child is playing out back with an older child
and skins his knee – the older child brings the child to you to be comforted.
An additional thought to consider is that being used to being passed around is not necessarily an issue of attachment, but is just what normally occurred where they came from. It will take them a while to understand that their needs, both physically and emotionally, are going to be met by someone specific.
6. Be consistent. Find the routine and keep it as much as possible. Consistency for a child that comes from an orphanage is familiar. Consistency for a child that has come from a chaotic situation is comforting as well.
7. Expect some developmental delays. When a child comes into foster care they may have some delays that were brought on by their environment, working with them at home may bring some quick changes in those areas. A child from an orphanage is often delayed as well, sometimes due to the lack of stimulation or just opportunity. Don’t get overly anxious at first; give the child some time to adjust. In our area Easter Seals is a great place for a developmental screening, if they are over the age of three the local school district does the screening. There are many services available for children in our area that are a great help to families if they are needed.
8. Socially a child may seem behind in how they relate to others or how they emotionally respond to situations. Often children don’t understand how something is supposed to be done because they have never seen it done before. For example perhaps a child lacks table manners – but maybe they never ate at a family-type table before. Or a child may have had a very limited number of toys before so playing with them is something new not to mention sharing them.
Again these are some things to consider as you bring your child home, I know there are other things as well. It is good to remember that everyone is adapting – parents, new child, new siblings and so it takes time to find a new normal for your family.
Lastly, for some people instant feelings don’t always come. Don’t be too hard on yourself if that is how you feel. Show yourself some grace in that area and give yourself time to get to know your new little one and them to get to know you. Those feelings will come as you come together to be the family that the Lord has knit together.
Note: Michelle Gardner has written a very good book about life after the homecoming entitled, After the Dream Comes True.