Before even discussing pre-placement visits, it is my personal opinion that these visits are not a test-run. If you are not committted to the kids, don't agree to a pre-placement visit. It is very harmful for children to meet you and then have you change your mind. So, the visits are NOT, and I repeat NOT, to help you decide. They are the beginning to a lifetime relationship.
Here are some of my ideas about how a person should act and what one should do during pre-placement visits.
1) Keep things low key and as close to family living as you can so that expectations are not created. If your family goes to Chuck E. Cheese's once a month, but only gives out a dollar of tokens, for example, don’t give the new kid a $5.00 bill the first time you meet him ... or from now on it’s going to be an expectation. Doing lots of things that cost money will make them think that is always the way it is. If your family never orders dessert, don’t do it during the first visit.
2) Do not give them a lot of gifts. Again, you’re setting up an expectation and they are going to think this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many kids in foster care have attachment issues and they are not looking at a new family as “someone to love me” but as “someone to buy me stuff.” So, the more stuff you buy upfront, the more they will look forward to stuff, stuff and more stuff.
3) If you do give gifts, give gifts that focus on the relationship. A photo album or something with the family name on it are good options or a CD of family pictures, or of favorite family songs. Things that will make connections.
4) Plan activities that will involve interraction -- watching a movie is NOT a good example. Something active or something that involves communication -- board games, card games, etc. allowing for plenty of conversation are appropriate.
5) Realize that this is the ultimate in a honeymoon. It’s OK to fall in love, but don’t think that this visit is what it is always going to be like.
First visits are fun. Enjoy them. But be careful not to set an unrealistic tone.