Many people wonder what it must be like to welcome a new foster child. This account is specifically for new foster parents, waiting foster parents or anyone interested in learning more about what foster parents do.
Before any foster parent gets a call for a placement, they will have had to go through much training and a home study to be sure they know what they are in for but also for the agency to know them. Our agency takes anywhere from 8 months to two years before opening a new foster home. You can’t just sign up and get a placement by Friday.
During training hopefully, the foster family learns some good ideas for how to prepare their home and family for a new child. Before we even get a call, here is a list of items we have on hand and ready.
* Variety of size and softness toothbrushes & mini toothpastes of a few flavours.
* Underwear. We try to keep a few sizes of underwear for all ages. We have buckets of clothing for all sizes and we keep the underwear in the buckets.
* Pj’s of a few sizes in the age range you are accepting.
* A bucket of diapers. Ask friends for a few sizes of each newborn through size 6. I keep ours in ziploc bags to keep them fresh as diapers absorb moisture over time. I also keep a small pack of wipes.
* A small hygiene kit for males and one for females if you take any child older than 8. Deodorant, razor, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, etc.
* Lice Shampoo. Always keep at least one bottle. Often kids will come with head lice. We also use an electric lice killer comb. They work great and don’t expire.
* A welcome basket of snacks for their room. Even if you don’t normally allow food in rooms, it’s important for new foster children to have access to snacks as they often don’t feel comfortable asking for food when hungry. They may have come from a place where there was no food so demonstrating food security is important. Leaving bowls of fruit and healthy snacks around also help lessen anxiety over food. Keeping some comfort foods that kids are used to is also a good idea. We don’t usually eat Kraft Dinner but kids who come are very used to it so we have a few boxes in the pantry.
* Backpack. We have a few on hand as sometimes a child leaves a day later and then we at least can send them on their way with a bag and a few items of their own. Often children come with nothing or a garbage bag of items.
* Car seats/booster seats. We always have a few extra of each size and one infant one. Be sure to check the expiry date on them.
* A journal for older kids. One for me to keep notes in and one for them. Might also need one to communicate with the teen or the child’s parents.
* Age, gender appropriate bedding, new pillow, a soft toy or bed throw. Also very important for almost any age is mattress protectors. We have them on all of our mattresses to protect from bed wetting and any other things that may spill on the bed.
When we get a call for a child, we listen closely to the child’s history and what is known of the child. I go with my gut as to whether it sounds like a good match. The workers often try to make the best match possible before they call anyone. There have been many times I have had to say no. Our very first call was for a 10 year old boy when we were requesting children 0-5. It was hard to say no but I knew I had made the right choice when the next day we took in a sweet one year old.
It is often very quickly after that call that we start rearranging bedrooms or setting up beds. Sometimes a child fits perfectly into a room with an empty bed but other times we need to move kids around to share with a child of similar age or to allow a sibling set to stay together or for a difficult child to have their own room. Our children have grown up moving rooms. The longest they have stayed in a room is about 2 years. Most of my children have lived in every room of our house. We have 7 bedrooms.
It is often an adrenaline rush to get everything done before a child arrives. Once a child arrives, the real work begins so we try to have as much together for their space as possible. I hope this list helps. Comment below if there’s any great ideas that you have.