Building a relationship with your foster child looks different for everyone. Each kid is unique in their own way, and their relationship with you will also be unique. For some, they may be eager for love and connection right away and open up to you immediately. Others, especially older children, may act distant and pull away from you. It can be difficult to discover the fine line between giving them the gentle push they need while still letting them have space.

Waiting for your foster child to let you in can be heartbreaking for parents, and can kill your spirit. Just try and remember why you fostered in the first place- to give these kids a chance to grow and be loved as they never have before. Odds are you didn’t sign up to foster thinking that this would all be easy. Most foster kids have been through tough times, and even if your caseworker has let you know about that child’s past, it doesn’t mean you know the full history. 

One of the biggest issues is mistrust. It can be difficult for these children to learn to trust, as their own parents have been unable to keep and care for them, and they may have been through a number of foster homes that haven’t worked out. Being moved around constantly can stir up anger and unrest. 

Be adamant in making sure your foster child knows they are welcome in your home. From the day they arrive to a few months in, treat them with kindness and respect, and really show them that they are safe in this family. Little gestures like letting them pick a meal or giving them a small gift can go a long way. 

Show compassion and interest. Even if they are reluctant, engage in conversation with your foster child on a regular basis. Ask them questions about their interests, their time at school, and try and join them in activities that they enjoy. Once your child understands that you genuinely care and have concern for their overall wellness, they will be more willing to let you in.

Understand that it can take a long, long time. In fact, you may feel as though you never truly built a relationship with that child before they have to leave your home. Though it may be heartbreaking, it’s okay. Deep down, they appreciate the love you showed them and the care you provided for them in the time they stayed with you. Children don’t always wear their emotions on their sleeves. The time and love you give to each foster child impacts them in a positive way- and positively affects the rest of their lives.