*If you have kids over five, please see our updated post, “wishlist part 2.”
No matter how much you prepare yourself to be a foster parent (or parent in general), you will never be fully prepared. Being a foster parent throws some additional curveballs in the preparation process for becoming a parent, and honestly, with each placement the only thing that gets easier is that you are more prepared to be unprepared. As many of you probably know, during our certification process we anticipated being foster parents to school-age children, but our first placement was Ava*, an infant, who arrived at our home 4-hours after the initial placement phone call.
When becoming a parent, you often have 9ish-months to prepare. You can use this time to freak out, paint the bedroom, clean the house, stock-up on necessary and unnecessary supplies, over-analyze, host a baby-shower, spread out expenses over months, and yes, freak out. To become a foster parent, it took us a little bit less than 6-months from the start of our journey to our first placement. During that time, we prepared our home to pass the DHS Home Inspection (fire extinguisher = check!), and emptied the room that our future kiddo would occupy, save for a twin bed. Beyond that, we had no idea if we should get toys, clothes, and decorations for a 5-year old boy, or an 18-year old girl, or anyone in between. And it turns out, we should have ditched the bed, set-up a crib, and prepared for an 11-month old little girl!
All we are trying to say is, “preparing for a placement is very difficult”. Our first placement was just as difficult as preparing for our 5th and 6th. These are little humans, all with their own needs, and the amount of time you have between when you know they are coming, and when they arrive can be measured in minutes or hours, not months. Many of the items you purchase for your kiddos need to be and should be sent with them when reunification occurs (clothes, toys you bought them, hygiene products, etc.), but some things you buy, are considered items for the house, and you can keep for the next placement. This phenomenon explains why we have a double jogger and single jogger as well as a pack-n-play taking up valuable storage space while there are no toddlers currently in our home.After our first placement we quickly became aware of two things:
- Children in foster care need products you wouldn’t typically think to buy.
- Online shopping is a lifesaver!
Many of our friends and family expressed interest in giving the kids and us gifts after our first placement. At first we were hesitant, but we realized two things:
- They wanted to help kids in foster care, and this was a way that they could help.
- It was like the baby shower that the kids and us never had… it was a placement shower and it was very helpful!
- It was easy: Whenever we thought of something we needed, we could quickly add it to our list.
- It was easy: People who wanted to help could do it from their computer, and have it shipped right to our front door. They were helping in a significant way, but it was not a huge effort.
- It was quick: With Amazon Prime, items we needed that people purchased for the kids showed up within 2-days. (Click the link and sign up for the 30 day free trial to truly understand the power of prime)
- It was effective: When you know a kiddo will be arriving at your home, there is no telling what they have or don’t have with them. Do they need clothes? How big are they? Do they need books or toys? Car Seat? Back Pack? This allowed people to send exactly what we needed, and nothing that we didn’t.
(For more information regarding what is provided to foster parents and their kiddos through DHS, check out our post You Get Paid For This, Right?)
So, if you are a foster parent with a village of supporters who are looking for an easy and effective way to support you, think about setting up an Amazon WishList for your new placements. If you are someone who is interested in supporting foster children, but unable to become a foster parent, reaching out to friends or members of your community who are foster parents, and suggesting they start a WishList is a great way to support foster kids and parents.
Here are some of the things that have been on our wishlist that we found very helpful as first time foster parents. We didn’t always know what we wanted or needed, but the following are items we couldn’t live without… well at least our lives are much easier now with these items.
I used to think this appliance was ridiculous. It seemed like a Keurig for babies, and very unnecessary. Well people, I am eating my words! This is especially useful for foster parents with infants. If you have a baby, you will need to feed them formula. As first time parents, we quickly learned that formula bottles need to be used within a short window after they are mixed, so there is no pre-mixing bottles and storing them in the fridge. Also, trying to comfort a distressed, tired, crying child in one arm, while scooping and shaking in the other is just not fun, and quite messy. We were gifted this machine and if we have another infant kiddo we will get another one (we gifted ours to another family after Ava was reunited). You choose the ounces, press on, and moments later you have a warm mixed bottle that you made with one hand!
These were one of our best purchases. They install with foam tape and can be turned on and off with a switch. When there are no babies we don’t have to remove them all and when we do have babies they can easily be switched back on.
If you worry about kids wandering off I would invest in some type of tracker. It is not uncommon for kiddos who previously had little to no boundaries or supervision to want to try and go on “adventures” alone. If nothing else, it is peace of mind.
Sleep schedules are usually a hard one, especially in the beginning. This alarm clock tells them when they are allowed to get out of bed, there is also an alarm to wake them up if that is something they need. It has been our experience that schedules and telling time have been difficult for kiddos. This clock takes the “telling time” aspect out of the equation. If it is “OK to Wake!” the entire clock lights up green, and if not, it stays dark. This way, if a kiddo wakes up at 3:30am, they know not to just get out of bed.
You should have a few sizes on hand, after a child arrives at your home, the last thing you should do is leave for a clothing run. Offer the little one a relaxing bath and have clean PJ’s ready to wear. It is much easier to go to the store for clothing during the day. The best part about the footless option is that the child can wear them while they are going through a growth spurt! Save yourself the trouble of ruining a pair of PJs by cutting the footies off, and just buy the footless. Long story short, backwards PJs prevent taking off your diaper for finger painting your crib during nap time…
This item is amazing, it cuts down on messes and is easy to clean. Many of these babies do not want to be changed, especially by a stranger. The bum brush lets you apply cream in seconds, and keep your hands clean… just make sure to get one for each kiddo and make sure they are different colors.
This stroller is a great option for foster families because there are endless options for your ever changing family. Most people buy these as a second stroller when they are considering having a second baby. In Foster care you may find yourself having two kids under three with only an hour to prepare. This stroller, with a few clicks, allows you to not stranded at home! You need to get out…trust us.
We love our Echo! The kids use it for music and timers. We use it for music, cooking, podcasts, news, games, and making shopping lists. The “magic door” choose your own adventure is an alternative to T.V that allows the kids to use their imagination and listening skills. The timer function has really helped with transitions, because the kids can set their own timers, and understand that when Alexa “says” that the time is up, it is time to move on to the next activity. Just make sure they don’t figure out how to make purchases through it.
We document each of our kids with our Instax camera, it’s a cute way to send them with pictures of your family when they go home or to a different home. Polaroids are great because the kids like watching them develop, and they like looking at the picture book of them and all the other kiddos. We have also sent the kids on visits with pictures of themselves, to give to their family.
Night lights are important for all the kids we have had, this one is disguised as a light show, turn it on and it will play a beautiful water scene on the ceiling for one hour. You can also play music with an aux cord. Very relaxing for kids of all ages, we have used it for our babies, toddlers, and our 8-year old.
In Oregon we are required to have this size fire extinguisher in our kitchen. Check with your agency or certifier on what equipment you are required to have, and what size you will need to get.
Teething is always a hard time and with all the baby carrying that you should be doing this is a lifesaver.
When you find out you have a child with lice, it is go time. don’t plan on having time to run to the store for supplies, these are hard to find when you are in a panic and it is late at night, trust us on this one…
These are just a few of the purchases that we have made that at first, may not seem like necessities, but have definitely helped to make life for our kiddos and us easier. There are definitely other “necessities” that are not on the list, but these stick out. Books have also played a major role in our foster parenting journey, so if you haven’t yet, take a look at our other post Books For Foster Kids And Foster Parents. Hopefully this post gives potential or current parents or foster parents ideas on some “necessities” out there that can make their journey a little easier. For those who want to help foster kids and parents, but are not foster parents themselves, hopefully this is a good start to some items that you could purchase or provide that would make a difference (also, take a look at this post for ideas on how to help foster children and foster parents).
The other thing we wanted to stress in this post is the unpredictability and quickness of a placement. It took us a lot of internal conversations to even consider creating a WishList after our first placement. After realizing that the combination of us needing support, and others wanting to support us, coupled with the uncertainty and quickness of placements, a WishList felt less like a handout, and more like a way for our village to help. We are very thankful for our village, so are our kids, and we encourage you to establish your village, or be a part of a village.
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