You decided to foster! Maybe you are now taking the training classes or waiting on your first placement? Or maybe you are still thinking about it, in that case, don’t buy anything yet because you will have plenty of time during your training to shop. I know there are some of you out there that have a family placement, and you never imagined that you would be “fostering” a grandchild, friend or relative’s child. So you may have the child before you start any process.
There are so many different ways that you awesome people step into this world of foster care and whichever way you got here, you are changing the life of a child. Don’t underestimate that! You can do this and they are blessed to have someone in their life that will love and care for them. If they go back to a biological family, your love will continue and keep praying for them, it matters!
I thought about the things that have been really useful in our fostering journey and shared them with you as a shopping list, in hopes that it will give you something to do while you wait, and prepare your house and yourself for you life and heart to change drastically!
You can’t really prepare yourself for how your life will be changing by your decision to foster. But you can prepare you house and future child’s room to make them feel cared for and you feel less stressed when your child arrives. Trust me, you wont feel ready even if you are ready! In our journey so far with 6 kids we have never felt ready when they arrived in our home for the first time.
1. A BIG BINDER AND 3 HOLE PUNCH:
There are so many papers that will come with your child. A binder is the perfect place to store all these papers. Our first placement of 2 sisters were 1 and 2 years old and we had to get them caught up on their vaccines in addition to all the other paperwork that comes through with DCFS, daycare, early intervention, and just so much. It is nice to have something that you can pass back along to their bio family if/when they return home or on to their adoptive family if they transition to another home and if the kiddos end up staying with you forever you have an organized book of their records. With our second placement I would even hold punch school drawing or papers to keep and write notes in there about different events they were participating in.
2. NEW BLANKET:
The fuzzier the better. This is something a friend dropped off when our very first placement arrived, and I am so glad she did. Those blankets went with them to their pre-adoptive home as well as all their bedding just so they could hopefully feel more comfortable during the transition. They used those blankets at daycare too. A lot of times, as in the case with our first placement, they arrive with little to nothing.
3. VARIOUS SIZE PAJAMAS AND CLOTHES:
I started buying clearance items in all sizes and now looking back the best thing to buy are pajamas. Depending on the age, you can go through a pair of PJs a night. I would also look for various all season type clothes in all sizes along the line so that I had something if a little one arrived. I only went up to about 4T because I figured that a little older child may have fun going out and buying some new clothes if they didn’t arrive with anything. Actually the first night we had our “Three’s Company” group, we took our 10 year old girl shopping, because she didn’t arrive with much. It was a great bonding experience, seeing her pick things out and try and put combinations together. The main reason for having some clothes on hand is more if you receive a little, and you may not be able to get out of the house right away or want to.
4. BOOKS AND A SPECIAL TOY:
Another thing that my friend dropped off with the blankets were a doll for each of them. They loved those dolls, and they were theirs… other friends of the family sent some gifts as well, toys and books and it was so appreciated. Make sure the items that you purchase are things that you gift to them and not keep for other kiddos. It is great to have toys like that around too especially if you have bio kiddos but the items I am talking about are for the foster child wherever they may end up.
5. SIPPY CUPS:
A must for those times when a kiddo may be dropped off on very short notice. I love the Dr. Brown’s line of Original Bottles and sippy transition nipples to be used in the bottles, as well as their straw and training cups! I have them all and have been really happy with them, especially because they are easy to clean and leak proof. If you are transitioning from a bottle (or suspect you may be) the NUK is a great one with the soft spout and fairly leak proof as well. Comes in lots of cute patterns too. You can always run to a store and pick these items up if you have time, but it was helpful for us to have a few cups on hand.
6. SENSITIVE SKIN SOAP AND LOTION:
Our two sister had such dry skin and our second placement, four year old girl had super sensitive skin. It was good to have some items on hand so when we gave them a bath that first night we had some products that were suited for their skin. This is my “go to” all over body cream even with our baby now. Even though it says eczema, I have found it to be one of my favorites for really dry, sensitive skin. I also like the Burt’s Bees line for our baby as well as the Aquaphor and Eucerin products.
I didn’t get this until our 3rd placement, our sweet little newborn. Even then it was a few months in before I purchased, but I love it. She was changing so fast that I wanted to record something short every day, in our lives, in hers, whatever was going on. This is perfect, and it will also help with record keeping.
8. CHECK FOR LICE AND BED BUGS:
Do this. From experience, it is much easier to treat it before it is infested in their bedding or on you. Yes, experience talking here. You can get a comb to have on hand to check hair when you get a new placement, casually, if one in a sibling group has it, they most likely will all have it. I loved Lice Clinics of America, I would not hesitate to spend the money if anyone in my family has lice. The treatment kit can be ordered after you find out if they have it, I wouldn’t keep one on hand because you may never need it. Hopefully! I would also take a check on their skin for bed bug bites. They bite in a row of two, three or more red, usually itchy, round bites. When a new placement moves in, if they come with a bag of items, go through the items carefully, and wash everything. Unless there is something very specific the child doesn’t want washed, then check carefully. I hear bed bugs are very hard to get rid of and would call an exterminator if they do get into your house.
9. CAR SEAT:
If you plan to foster littles, sometimes there is time to get a car seat, or you will be provided with one. Sometimes you will get a voucher and sometimes no time and no voucher or reimbursement. We had bought a convertible car seat similar to the Cosco one linked below. When our first placement arrived, 2 sisters, they moved from a relative placement (that didn’t work out). The relatives were given the new items, including car seats, but we didn’t get them unfortunately. Kids that are new to care get either vouchers or reimbursement up to a specific amount. To be used for items like car seat, crib, diapers, and other items that you may need. However if you have or buy a car seat it is yours, if you use the voucher or reimbursement it goes with the child. So if you do receive a child new to care and you bought a car seat, you can use that voucher for many other items that you will need, it will not go to waste.
10. TRAUMA TRAINING:
Not something you need to purchase! Trauma training is free through DCFS and most likely available in your state as well. It is training that can be put towards your hours for re-licensing. I took trauma training in person, as a weekly night class. I really enjoyed getting together with other foster parents. and learning how these young minds are altered through the trauma they have experienced. It really helped me understand and be able to parent a little more effectively. While you are waiting on a placement, it is a good time to get in whatever training you can. Trauma Training, in my opinion, should be mandatory before a placement. I really got so much out of it. Check with your agency or DCFS licensing worker if you are unsure about how to sign up for classes.
Little things can make kiddos feel super special and cared for.
Foster kids are going through what may be one of the most traumatic times of their lives. Most cannot vocalize how it is making them feel or what they need. We as foster parents can only try and anticipate needs. Little things can make kiddos feel super special and cared for. Making a child feel cared for and special during this time of their life can help them start to learn, to trust big people. It may be a step in letting a big person love on them, and make them feel safe.