Pre-Placement Visits With older children over the age of 3 or 4 years, one or more visits may be required before the child moves in. No one can predict how many will be needed; it depends on how well the child is adjusting to the impending placement. Make sure you are well prepared for each visit in terms of safety and accommodations. Visits should be fun but realistic. Make sure you:

  • Post a list of 5 to 10 basic rules and consequences so the child knows what to expect. “What are you going to do to me if I break the rules?,” is typically the first thing a child wants to know. Example: Always keep your hands to yourself. Consequence for hitting: The time-out chair.
  • Incorporate a few of the child’s personal customs, habits, and traditions. This shows that you have respect for his or her past. For example, if he is used to eating black-eyed peas on Thanksgiving Day, add this to the family menu. If she enjoys a story at bedtime, work this into your routine.
  • Stock up on food that includes items the child likes but is primarily what the family normally eats.
  • Require chores from the outset so that the child feels like a member of the family instead of a guest. Even a 4 year old can set spoons and paper plates around the table and pick up toys at bedtime.
  • Involve your child in the decoration of his or her new room. For example, ask the child to help you choose posters, the bedspread, or a throw rug.
  • Stick to a typical routine as much as possible to show the child what family life is really like.
  • School, church, and community transitions are easier when the child visits these places during a home visit. Ask yourself what you would like to know when moving to a new home, family, and town, and then offer this information to the child.
  • Stay in contact between visits via telephone, mail, and email.
  • Give the child or teen a small gift at the end of the first visit to be used as a soother until the next visit. One mother gave her son a little teddy bear and said, “When you miss us, just hug this teddy bear. Before you know it, we’ll all be together again.”

Copyright © 2003 Rita Laws and Nancy Ashe. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without written consent.