Preparing for a Foster Placement (Top Ten Items to Have on Hand)

Preparing for a foster placement is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get! Having a narrow age range and specific sex of the child can be helpful, but if you are like us [we’ve said Yes to more kids out of our parameters than in!] then you can be scrambling at the last second to get what you need for a new kiddo. We live rural and the nearest Target or Wal-Mart is over an hour away so having items on hand is imperative! The following is a list of items I have found helpful to have on hand when waiting for placements. Again, this is specific to ages.

My Top Ten items to have on hand for foster care placements:

  •  Clothes and Shoes. This will look different for everyone and what to have on hand. We have girl clothes sizes 3T+ on hand (because we have 3 daughters so this is easy). Please help yourself out and organize the clothes you have on hand ahead of time! (You will thank yourself later for doing this). I organize ours by size and seasons (we have four of them in Wisconsin).  Because three of our seasons are Cold, Colder, and Freezing I keep all our old coats, winter accessories and boots in labeled tubs.
    • “Off” Clothes. “Off” clothes means the just-in-case box of clothes. It’s the box of boys clothes when you’ve told CPS the only sex you’ll take is female!
    •  Clothes Reimbursement: Know what your department’s clothing allowance is and how it works ahead of time. Lesson learned: we had a male toddler placement in which we had ZERO clothes for. There was a mad dash to get clothes and winter gear for him. I burned up the $200 allowance. When he was reunited I sent all the clothes home with him. When he came back a few months later none of those clothes came with except the coat on his back. Because he came back within a certain time frame he did not get another clothing allowance.  We were back to ground zero and this time had to pay for all the clothes out of our pocket. And if your kiddo is moving to another foster home or kin; be nice and send clothes with. I used some of our allowance to buy the next size up before our kids moved to their relative’s home so the new family could be ahead of the game.
  • Hygiene Items: Kid toothpaste, multi-pack of kid toothbrushes, kid lotion, shampoo, & bath wash. Deodorant. Baby wipes.
    • LICE treatment. Have several boxes. In particular I love Lice Freee. My medical recommendation is to treat the infested head once a week for four weeks (diligently) if you want to irradicate a head full of lice. Doing so improves your odds of breaking the lice lifecyle and thus successfully commiting lice homicide.
  • Bedding: Get waterproof mattress-protector sheets. Get multiple. There is a good chance your child will wet the bed (or puke in it) at least once and at 1 a.m. you will be happy you have an extra set to throw on the bed.
  • Lovey Blankets and Stuffed Animals: They may come with their own special blanket or animal but sometimes they may have to be destroyed due to lice, scabies, bedbugs, drug exposures, etc.  My mother-in-law makes cozy fleece blankets for our placements. She makes them ahead of time so that we can give them to our new child right away. We also have a [much too big] tub of stuffed animals our bio kids have stopped playing with that new placements can take their pick from and keep as their own.
  • Kid Comfort Foods: Keep a box of Mac-n-Cheese stashed away and a package of ready-to-bake cookies in your freezer. When you get the call for a new child, bake those cookies and pour a glass of milk!
  • “Foster” Books: 
    • Make a Welcome to Our Home book. I made one on Shutterfly when I had a free book code. The only problem with this method is that you cannot change out the pictures and our family has changed a lot since I made this book a few years ago! The book is a good tool to use with a new child. When the time is right (usually at bedtime on the first night) read the book to them. It is an introductory to the family. My book has an “About Me” page for each member of the family. This opens up a conversation with the child: “Ella loves sushi, do you? What’s your favorite food?” “Lily loves to play soccer. What is your favorite sport to play?” I’ve included a picture of each room in the house to help them know what the room is used for. I incorporated special rules like: how to treat our pets and do not go down to the river without an adult! And then general family rules.

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    • Get kid books geared towards kids in foster care. Get books for YOU on fostering.  I’ve got several on my Pinterest page I have pinned. One of my favorite books to read to a new placement is: A Different Home. In my opinion this book is a “must have.” Another “must have” for a new foster parent is The Connected Child.
  • Carseats and booster seats. Most of our kids have come with a carseat. But as you can imagine, if the kids are not in good shape, their carseats are not very pretty either. Of course the one time we loaned out our carseat to another foster family we got a call to drive to the agency to pick up a new child and they did not have an available carseat. So I scrambled.
  • A Daycare Plan. Are you a working mother/father? Will your child need to be in daycare? If your answer is Yes, then be proactive and have a plan. This can be very tricky depending on your foster care regulations, where you live, and the age of the child. In general, know your licensed daycare options. Call ahead of time and let them know who you are and that you may need a last-minute spot with them. When they hear what you are doing many will be willing to help you out.
  • Toys. While we have way plenty toys, having brand new toys ready to give as a gift to a new placement can mean the world. Since we were set up to have girls only (and only have bio girls) we did not have toys for males. When we knew we were going to get two boys, my husband went out of his way to go shopping. We presented the new toys to them they were beyond thrilled and grateful to have something that they could call Mine.  
  • Underwear. Okay maybe this goes under clothes. But when I listed clothes I typically think gently used hand-me-downs. Underwear should be new. Right? Have a few different sizes on hand roughly in the age ranges you’ve signed up for (be ready for the outlier). And while we’re talking about underwear, maybe some diapers; have some small packs in a couple different sizes just in case.

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We don’t ever take babies so my list doesn’t include the baby basics BUT we have agreed to doing baby respite care, so we do have a portable crib, high chair, bottle, and pacifiers on hand. This list also assumes you have other children at home. If you are brand new parents then you will want the typical baby/child basics. The best thing since we had babies that I newly discovered: snack cups– Genius!!! You know, those cups with the lid that lets the kid reach in and get the snack but does not allow for spillage. Brilliant.  My newly placed 14-month-old foster son and I were rushing through Walmart looking for a winter coat (because I wasn’t smart enough to have one on hand since we said we would never take boys or babies) as he munched on Gold Fish. In the aisle for toddler dinnerware he dumped the bag of fishies all over the floor. Stunned and frustrated at the mess, the snack-cups caught my eye and I bought three.

Is there anything I am missing that you would suggest? 

–Leah

7 comments on “Preparing for a Foster Placement (Top Ten Items to Have on Hand)

  1. This is awesome!! I would also add that there are many services you might also be able to have to assist in offsetting costs…Call Great Rivers Consortium to check to see if you qualify for daycare assistance…I’m pretty sure just the fact that they are foster you qualify. Also, you will probably qualify for WIC and potentially Food Share. Just a little something to help the family as a whole.

  2. Thanks for the great post!

    I would add children’s medicines.
    Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antihistamines, some kind of electrolyte solution.
    (I’ve tried to be generic- I’m Australian and don’t know any American brands)
    Creams for bites/stings.
    Cartoon bandaids.
    Those would be the bare minimum for me. I have fishing tackle boxes of stuff at home 😂

    I work in an emergency department and I’m always amazed that some families (without obvious financial limitations) don’t have medicines for kids at home!

    • Absolutely!! This is a good list for the foster parent who have not had children before. **Side note: I had the cartoon bandaids for our foster kids, they became such a novelty that I had to to buy ugly ones so they would stop using bandaids for every little thing! 😂

    • At our house we have a play room with an art table/station and a Lego table and book nook. Those are great items you listed!

  3. This is so great! My husband and I are in the middle of our training courses in Louisiana and have a room ready with lots of stuff but there was quite a few items I didn’t even think about it. Hygiene items of all things…how did I forget that?! Thanks for the list and your input. I love your blog and look forward to following along 🙂

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