Top 10 Tips for Preparing to Foster

photo by Shelby

by Jen S.

When you start on this journey to become foster parents there are so many things we do to prepare. The home study, countless training hours, fingerprinting, pages of paperwork and documentation. But the fun part comes from preparing our homes (and hearts) for the kids that are to come. 

Knowing how to prepare can be intimidating. We all have our parameters, but until the call comes we don't know who is joining our home. So what do we need? How do we get ready? What is REALLY important? 

I thought I'd break this down into my top 10 must have on hand items. Followed by a few tips to get the most bang for your buck. 

1. Sleep - they have to sleep somewhere right! Have those beds set up. Or at least easily accessible. I like to stock up on extra throw blankets so each kid gets their own new blanket when they come. Babies too, don't forget those swaddle blankets!

2. A bathroom kit - hairbrush, toothbrush, kid toothpaste (I get fluoride free in case they don't know to spit it out), body wash, lotion, some paints or something fun in case a kiddo is afraid of bath time, and your favorite lice treatment. Don't forget hair ties for girls! And deodorant for big kids (you know they stink!).

3. Medicine Kit - children,s Tylenol and Ibuprofen, vitamins, a good bulb syringe or nose Frieda, thermometer, medicine syringe, fun kid band aids and triple antibiotic ointment

4. Gear - swings, bouncer, exersaucer, bumbo, Rock-n-play... All great stuff. But do you really need it all. Probably not. I choose something for entertainment and something for containment. Whenever possible find something that does double duty!

5. Car Seats - this is an area where it's best to buy new. A infant car seat is great for newborns, especially in winter months so having one on hand is good.  But I like choosing an all in one seat. So all of mine have gone from 5-110 lbs. rear facing for infants all the way to a belt positioning booster. 

6. Stroller(s) - you want versatility! And this isn't something you want to wait on. If you have a kid come who is traumatized the last thing you want is to wrestle them into the doctor or have them run from you. Plus one week you might have one kid; the next you have three. So look at what you are open to and assess your needs. While a stroller like a City Select or Valco Tri-mode might cost more on the front end, you will save on storage space because you won't need multiple strollers. I love that my favorite stroller can convert from 2-4 kids with a couple attachments. 

7. Feeding- bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers. Every kids is different, so having selection can save you some headaches. You don't need a ton of everything just a few of varying styles. Get a few wide and standard bottles. A standard sippy, straw cups, and plastic cups. Kid friendly plates, bowls and utensils. Meals end up on the floor far too often. 

8. Paper plates and utensils- I'm giving this its own topic because, dishes! This is a time where your environmental footprint is just going to have to take one for the team. The adjustment to a new placement doesn't leave time to do dishes. You'll need that time for all the extra laundry!

9. Clothes - if you are taking newborns, make sure you have a NEW outfit for each gender on hand. You are preserving memories for that parent, so the outfit you bring baby home in is something you will send home with them if they reunify. (And please take pictures and ask for crib cards).  For newborns, I keep a weeks worth of clothes, but don't really worry about season.  Bigger kids, a good standard is three outfits per size and season on hand. And a pair of pj's. It will get you through the initial period.  A pair of shoes in every other size. Most kids who walk will come in shoes. But not all.   Once kids hit double digits keeping clothes on hand gets really tricky. Having something clean they can sleep in or wear while you wash their clothes is really the key. I like plain t-shirts and sweats or basketball shorts. It's pretty gender neutral and easy to get a small, medium, and large size.   I find it more important to keep a savings of funds to shop for them quickly upon arrival. You won't always get a clothing voucher. And in that age group especially, the voucher doesn't go as far. 

10. Toys/Activities - Some kids won't be familiar with toys or how to play so keep it simple. Bubbles, puzzles, baby dolls or action figures, coloring books and crayons, a few developmental baby toys or an activity table.  Big kids and teens are pretty easily appeased with video games. I keep craft supplies on hand for anyone who might need a more constructive outlet. 

Getting these things together can break the bank. Especially since when you are setting up for your first placement there is no reimbursement for expenses. But there are a lot of resources at our disposal to make this very doable. Take advantage of what is available to you!

- garage sales. 

- Join your local Facebook kids sale page. 

- Ask your friends and family for hand me downs. 

- Shop end of season clearance. 

- Check your area for a foster parent supply closet. 

- Network with other foster parents and trade clothes. 

- Seasonal Moms Sales are a great one stop shop. 

- Shop Consignment - Once Upon a Child or Platos Closet

So there you have it, the basics. The fun and practical side of setting up for kids brings lots of stuff into our homes. But don't forget to prepare for the emotional baggage! 

- know who your tribe is 

- don't be afraid to ask for help

- take time for you and your spouse

Waiting for that first placement is an exciting time. It's filled with lots of emotion. But I encourage you to embrace this time. As I prepare for each child who comes into my home, whether I have weeks or moments notice, I use that time to pray for that child who will need our love and support. And to pray that God equips me with the skills to take what is to come. Pour love and prayer into each step of this preparation! And I promise, You've got this!!

Jennifer is a 40 yr. old wife and stay at home mom. She has been married to Ryan for 18 years. Their 4 children joined their family though international and foster adoption. Together they have fostered for 8 years and welcomed over 70 children into their home. Jennifer has a love for travel, her big crazy family, and tiramisu.

Listen to more of Jen's story on episode 15.