Now that we have been Fostering school aged children for over 7 months, and have been foster parents for over a year, we felt it was time to add provide an update to our list of necessary and/or helpful items for foster parents. Our first Foster Care Wishlist was one of our most popular posts to date, and we have heard from many of our readers, including perspective, new, and veteran parents and foster parents, that it has been very helpful for them. When we first wrote Foster Care Wishlist, it was based on our experience as new foster parents, and geared more towards babies and toddlers, since for the most part those were the kiddos in our home. This list is an update, and is influenced by our experience with school age children, developmentally disabled kiddos, and behaviorally challenging kiddos.
For those fostering, or expecting a placement, we highly recommend setting up an Amazon Wishlist / Baby Registry. This is an easy way to keep tabs on what you need to help care for your kiddos, and also is an opportunity for those who want to help and support you on your journey to easily help you in a meaningful way.
These help people who have Autism, ADHD, anxiety, sleep disorders, and sensory processing disorders. If you have a child that experiences any or possibly all of these traits, you are going to want one of these. We made one using this tutorial here. You need fabric of you choice and poly beads. The blanket should weigh 10% the child’s weight, plus one pound (70-lbs kiddo = 8-lbs blanket). This has been the most critical tool in our foster parenting arsenal, we can’t recommend it enough. If you can’t sew, just buy one, don’t get scared by the price-tag either, this one from amazon is a great deal! It is a game changer. Our little one, who has behavioral issues even asks us to put it on him when he realizes he is not able to control his emotions and is having a hard time. Here is the blanket we made, with fabric chosen by Trevor*.
One of our children is Developmentally Delayed (DD) and has a difficult time picking outfits or knowing what is appropriate to wear together or based on the weather…think flip flops in the snow with a dress appropriate for a wedding, when we are heading to the park to make snow angels. We use one of these closet organizers for her school clothes, each day is labeled and it has saved us a lot of grief in the mornings, as well as empowering her.
Uninvited adults can cause a lot of anxiety for many foster kids. For many of them the thought of a surprise visit may trigger them and remind them of the day they came into foster care to begin with. People will still probably try to sell you magazines or get you to donate to your local public radio station, but hopefully you can avoid a few door to door sales people, and save your kiddos from the anxiety and fear that can be triggered from a simple knock at the door.
DHS requires all medications to be locked up, including over the counter and prescription. This requirement is discussed during your Certification Classes , and is required to pass your home study to be certified. We have one mounted on the wall in the bathroom, but having one you can store meds in that can go in any room or on the road with you is a huge plus!
You will not believe the amount of paperwork that you accumulate as a foster parent. Being organized is key to being successful. We have been using binders since Day 1 to keep track of certification and continued education hours, medical paperwork, health insurance cards, legal paper work, school paper work (Individual Education Plan), assessment results, important contacts for each child, receipts, and the list goes on. We keep these binders of important info by the door and take them with us to every medical, school or legal appointment. They are a great resource for respite providers as well! The following is a photo of our current paperwork situation for our two kiddos.
Foster kids are typically very unorganized. It is definitely not their fault, but they require a lot of structure, reminders, and our current kids need visual aids to perform basic tasks. We use these to draw cartoon images of clothing items for one child’s dresser drawers so she can find the right items. Otherwise her drawer organization would be “Morning Pants, Evening Pants, Morning Shirts, Evening Shirts, Hats, Stuffed Animals…Where do my Tutus go?” and she still wouldn’t be able to find what she needed. What is a Morning Shirt?
Also, these labels can be very helpful when your babies and toddlers leave your home, and you need to store things from the first Foster Care Wishlist, because you might need them again. Nothing like digging through unmarked boxes looking for baby bottles as a child is en route to your home. Stay organized.
Transitions are hard! When they are engrossed in a fun activity it can cause a blowup when it is time to move onto the next thing. We use our Amazon Echo to allow the kids to set their own timers and to provide them with multiple verbal reminders too… but that does not always do the job. Visual timers are amazing tools that can also be useful in the child’s classroom! It allows them to get a better understanding of how time passes, and anticipate transitions, as opposed to thinking they are random and abrupt.
Creating structure, routines, and reasonable expectations is huge part of parenting, but especially being a foster parent. Many of the these kids have flown under the radar for years, with no routines or expectations or supervision. Visual chore charts of your families routing can be a great prompt for morning and evening routines. Be sure to make your expectations reasonable, based on chronological age, but also past history and emotional age. We put these charts in cheap picture frames, and attach a dry erase marker to them. The kiddos get to check off each task, and can be rewarded for completing them all in a timely manner. Set your kids up for success
Our kids get hyped up over everything. To have a dedicated space for getting the crazies out is ideal. Just make sure you run this one by your Certifier and CW first.
Many of the kids in foster care have had poor diets, as well as poor consistency with teeth brushing. Sometimes you want to reward them, or give them treats/presents, but candy is not the best choice. Find something that your kiddos like, and go with that instead. The prizes can be small. They may not focus on them for long, but that is fine…how long does an ice cream cone last? Use that as a metric of success. We have a fairy garden, so these little trinkets give them something to be excited about and to place in the garden. They also enjoy surprise packs for Playmobile and My Little Pony
Hyperactive Child? A kid with sensory issues or needs? Or maybe just a kiddo who has never had a structured meal time before or a table to sit at when they eat dinner. After weeks of our kiddos getting up and walking around during dinner, their therapist recommended a balance disk as a seat cushion. For us, it works, but it isn’t as effective as a weighted blanket, but it is a solid aide, and we can see how this could be another families weighted blanket/saving grace. As a parent, and especially a foster parent, you need to have an open mind. Sure, you didn’t have fidget spinners as a kid and you turned out fine… but maybe your kiddo would be more successful with one.
A home cooked meal means so much to these kids. We have had multiple kiddos who went “grocery” shopping at 7-11. Making a home cooked meal takes time though, and as a parent, or a foster parent trying to navigate appointments and new routines, time is not always available. The Instant Pot is a modern age pressure cooker, it doesn’t explode either! It works miracles. It combines the outcome of a skillet, crock-pot, and a pressure cooker with the reality of limited time to plan. Perfectly cook an entire meal in 15 minutes? Don’t stand over the stove stirring pots, place dinner in the Instant Pot and be with your kiddos… they need you.
When you have to start from scratch with hygiene concepts, take a tip from us and keep it simple. No point in creating a possible scenario where conditioner is used as body wash and shampoo is just for bubble baths.
We wrote an entire post on great books for foster kids, you can view it here. Since then we have discovered Todd Parr and have enjoyed his series. This book talks about all the different types of families and how it is ok that they are different from each other.
Please let us know if you have any items that as a parent or foster parent you could not do without.
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