What DO you need to have to accept a placement? Well, this depends on the age range (if you have a preferred age range, which often times people do), and gender. Clearly, I will never be able to list all the things, because every child is different and their needs will vary.
But there are some basic items you should probably consider having on hand, especially if you are open for an emergency placement. And even if you aren’t open to emergency placements, sometimes things move quickly, and you might not have time to do much preparation.
Now…obviously, some of these items may not apply to you, due to your preferred age range, so obviously keep that in mind as you peruse the list. If nothing else, I may bring to your attention some things you would not have considered initially; and which may help make a smoother transition for both the child and your household.
So in no specific order or sense of priority, here is a list of the things you might consider keeping on hand, while waiting for a placement (all age-appropriate, of course):
- Bed and bedding (maybe have a set for both a boy or girl, if you don’t have a preference in placement; or a neutral print or solid works well too, and might cover more bases); clearly this bed would be a crib for an infant, or a toddler bed with side rail for a toddler.
- New socks and underwear (this can be a little tricky…you might need to have several packages with a variety of sizes…just because a child is 4-years-old may not mean they wear a size 4; my son, for example, is 7, but he wears size10/12, which is not what you would expect, but it’s not altogether uncommon.)
- A few tops, sweatshirts, pants and shorts in a variety of sizes, hovering around your preferred age range if you have one; if you don’t have a preferred age range, then maybe some in many different sizes. Storage totes marked with each size and gender make for an easy “grab and go” when a kiddo arrives with little notice.
- New pajamas…again, in a variety of sizes and genders, because chances are the child will arrive with nothing, and it very well could be the evening or middle of the night. For their first night in a strange place, new jammies might be comforting.
- Nightlights for bedroom and bathroom/hallways…many children have suffered abuse and can find the darkness terrifying. A nightlight (or 3) can help bring them a little bit of peace and calm at bedtime.
- Bath bombs and/or bubble bath…this can help children who may be reluctant (or even fearful) of taking a shower or bath. They may have experienced abuse in a similar situation, so this might help them relax and be willing to soak for at least a few minutes. An additional mention for older children: show them that they can lock the door to give themselves privacy (which they may have never been afforded in their home of origin…but with this caveat: you as the foster parent should always make sure that you know how to unlock it from the outside, should an emergency arise!
- Blankets…age-appropriate of course; swaddling or baby blankets for younger ones, and larger blankets for older kids. Allow them to choose and maybe allow more than one if they have a difficult time making a decision. And maybe even consider having a small weighted lap blanket available to help a child be able to settle, especially prior to bedtime.
- New brush…especially for older children. And to go with that, some new hair ties.
- And along with that, a lice kit…it can happen to anyone, so it’s always a good idea to have one on hand if you need it. That’s not something you want to have to run out and get in the middle of the night!
- Age-appropriate toiletries…making sure you have toothpaste and toothbrush for little ones if you’re expecting toddlers; or a variety of regular brushes and paste for older kids, maybe even letting a child choose from a variety of sample sizes/flavors.
- Game closet…this might not be for the first night necessarily, but would be a good idea to have a range of age-leveled games on hand to give opportunities to interact with each other, but not necessarily have to “talk” about themselves.
- Snack closet/basket/drawer…this could be especially helpful for kids who come from a background of want and who have fear about not getting enough food.
- Snacks for bedroom…this goes hand in hand with the snack closet/basket/drawer, but it takes it one step further for a child who has a deeply-rooted fear. Often what happens in these instances is that for a few nights the child will eat everything in the basket, and over time will eat less, until eventually they realize that they don’t need to eat it, because there will always be enough for them to eat in your house.
- Coloring books and crayons…these can be for a variety of ages, because it can be relaxing for many children (or even adults) to simply sit and color.
- White noise machine…often kids are coming from places which have constant noise; so they aren’t used to the quiet they may find in a foster home, especially when they go to sleep. A white noise machine can help give them noise to block out the “too quietness” or any unfamiliar sounds they might hear in a foster home, but yet give them that “noise input” their brains are craving.
- Vinegar and/or odor remover in laundry…for younger children you don’t necessarily need to ask, but for older children it’s nice to ask for permission to run some laundry for them. They may only have the clothes they’re wearing, but they may not have been washed for a while and a spin through the washer is warranted. Additionally, if it’s been a while since their last cleaning, they may have some tough odors to remove, which is where the use of vinegar or a commercial odor remover, along with detergent, would come in handy.
- Cinnamon rolls…an quick and more than likely popular breakfast; it’s easy to keep a couple of pop-open cans in the fridge to have on hand, and even though it might not be as healthy as you might like, you’ll know that the child ate.
- Age-appropriate toys
- Formula singles/bottles…it may be that the formula you have is not the kind a child is used to, or what a child needs; having singles (or small cans) on hand eliminate the possibility of waste.
- A few jars of baby food/cereal
- Bibs and burp cloths
- Diapers (just a few in every size and even overnights in larger sizes)
Now having listed out all this, I know this is not all-inclusive; there are many, many things you COULD have in order to be prepared, but honestly, I doubt you have the storage in your home that would be necessary for all of it! So what you should have instead, is the name of a foster closet (or more than one if you’re fortunate enough to be in an area that has multiple) that you can contact to help you get the things you need for a long-term placement.
And just a reminder: as we’ve discussed previously, foster parents get a $200 voucher for Burlington Coat Factory when a child new to care is placed in your home; but if the child is coming from another foster home or is a kinship placement, there are no monies from the Department of Child Services (DCS) for that.
Additionally, it can take a while for that voucher to arrive…and even when it does, you won’t be able to get everything you need at Burlington Coat Factory.
Point being this: you’ll want to have some things on hand to be as ready as possible at the outset.