10 Ways To Prepare for a New Foster Placement

Preparing for a new child to enter your home through foster care is both exciting and apprehensive.

Usually we have less than twenty-four hours to get everything ready before the child is walking through the front door.

There are ten things that I try to do when I’m preparing for a new child to arrive.

  1. Prepare bedroom.  

    This is usually the first thing on my list as it’s the most important.  When the social worker arrives with the new child, they will both want to see where they will be sleeping and make sure there is a place for their things.  I like to keep a variety of bedding options on hand to pull out so I can accommodate boys or girls of the age range we typically foster.  I prepare the bed, do a quick tidy of the room and make sure there is plenty of room for clothing, diapers, etc.  If it’s an older child it’s nice to make sure there’s an empty hook in the hall closet for coats and backpack, a drawer or toothbrush holder in the bathroom and space in the bedroom for things they don’t want to share.

  2. Make a list of questions to ask the social worker upon arrival.  

    I am in the process of putting together a binder and printouts that I can use each time so I don’t have to rethink this one every time, but before they arrive I like to jot down any questions I have, dates to share and reminders for myself to bring up during our conversation.  The important ones are questions about routines for the child, medical concerns, contact info of the placing worker, and what to expect for access with biological family.  All of this should have been shared already over the phone or be included in the folder given at the time of placement but it never hurts to cover the main things twice.

  3. Pull out appropriate clothes, toys, equipment, etc.  

    I have a collection of baby equipment, clothes and toys in storage that are not currently being used.  When a new child is on their way I like to pull out any bins of clothing I think might fit and any equipment such as baby carriers, swings, rockers, etc I might want to use.  It’s nice to know what I have in case a child arrives with very little clothing, toys, etc.  This also helps me know what might need to go on my shopping list.

  4. Grocery shopping.

    The last thing you’re going to want to do within the first few days of a new placement is run to the store for food, so if there’s time I scope out the fridge and sneak in a shopping trip before the child’s arrival.  Included on that grocery list will be easy, kid friendly foods that most children will find comforting and familiar such as Kraft Dinner, chicken fingers, french fries and pizza.  I also like to make sure I have diapers, wipes, formula, toothbrushes, etc.  Some of these I keep on hand regularly.

  5. Laundry.  

    I like to be able to focus on settling in the new arrival without having to worry about us all having clothes to wear, so I often throw in a load or two of laundry as I’m waiting.

  6. Cook dinner.  

    Whether the child is expected to arrive first thing in the morning or nearly bedtime, I try to think ahead to the next couple meals and make sure I have some easy options available that won’t take too much time or attention on my part.

  7. Simplify my calendar.  

    In between placements, I try to keep going on as normal and planning life, even though I know those plans could be cancelled at any minute.  When I know for sure a new child is arriving, I always take a look at the next few weeks of my calendar and see if there’s anything that needs to be, or could be, eliminated.  This is also a good time to make sure there are no appointments, family plans, etc that you are going to require respite care, babysitting or special permission to take the child along for.  It’s good to bring those things up sooner rather than later, even though the child may have already left your home by the time you reach that date.

  8. Clean.  

    Whether it’s the bathrooms, bedrooms, floors or the fridge…if there’s a corner that has been bothering me for the last little while I try to get it cleaned before the child arrives as there’s no guarantee when the next opportunity might be!  Truthfully if I get to this one, it probably means the arrival is taking longer than expected and I’m having trouble waiting patiently!  🙂

  9. Take a shower and wash my hair.

    Particularly if there is a baby or toddler coming I try to get this done as it can be very difficult during the first couple days of getting a little one settled.

  10. Nap.

    Okay, so we all know this one is usually unrealistic.  Who has time to nap, especially while getting ready to welcome a new little person into your home!  Even if I do manage to lie down, my mind is usually too busy to be able to actually sleep.  It would, however, be a really great choice if you were able to do it!  Especially if you are about to bring a baby into your home.  Even older children will rarely sleep well the first week in a new home so bank up if you can!

 

And that’s it!

My top ten “Get Ready for a New Placement” goals.

What about you?

Anything you like to get done between the phone ringing and the front door opening?

I’d love to hear them!

AF

Little O

We have a new little face in our home again.

Two year old Little O came to stay with us last week.

As a foster family we never know when the phone might ring with a social worker on the other end asking if we are willing to care for a child.

Wednesday it was just going on lunch time when I grabbed the phone and saw the word “Unknown” flash up on my screen.  During school hours this means one of two things; the school or Children’s Aid.

As it is Christmas Break I had little doubt who it would be.

I smiled and took a deep breath before answering.

My heart sank when I heard his name.

I felt like crying as I listened to her explain what was once again occurring in Little O’s life.

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I pictured his face and the way he constantly asked for Grandma and “blankie” the last time he was with us.

I remembered the happy chattering but also the anxious tears.

We had said goodbye to him after one short week, hopeful that home could be a safe place for him with the extra supports and supervision put in place.

I had packed extra clothes, my phone number and my best wishes to his family, hoping we could support in whatever way necessary but I hadn’t heard from them.

Would we take him?

Poor little O.

Yes, of course we’d take him.

We’d love to take him.

I closed my eyes a brief moment, whispering gratitude that just a short week ago I had called our social worker to tell her we’d like to be available over Christmas.

There was no doubt in my mind the strong urge I’d felt then, was due to this very situation.

It is so much better when a reoccurring placement can happen in the same home.

After talking to the social worker to confirm that Little O was, indeed, coming today I spent the next few hours tidying up the house, preparing a bed, making a list of questions to ask the social worker and throwing in some laundry.

I have learned to do these things (when there’s time) so that I can spend the next couple days focusing on settling in the child without worrying about cleaning, laundry, etc.

It’s not essential, it just makes it easier for me to relax and focus on what’s important.

If I was preparing for a baby I’d also try to squeeze in a shower and nap.

By 3pm they are walking in the front door, and there is Little O.

Deja vu.

He is cuddled up close against his social worker’s shoulder and holding on to a blanket, though not one I recognize.

In a clear plastic garbage bag in the social worker’s hand I spy the precious “blankie” I remember from last time.

I get a hint of a smile from him as I kneel down in front of him and say hello.

When his questions become fixated on the special blankie the social worker quietly tells me it needs to be washed, thus the isolation in the plastic bag.

I take the bag in hand and tell him we’ll do that first so that blankie will be clean and dry by bedtime.

Reaching out for his small hand we go back the hall together to the laundry room while the social worker dashes out to get his belongings from the car.

She apologizes when she returns with just one small armload of belongings.

He’s come with almost nothing but the clothes on his back; a pair of green, fuzzy footed pajamas.

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I assure her we’ll be fine, as the last time he was here he and my son had worn the same clothes interchangeably.  I was quite sure they could do the same thing again.

She stayed for a few minutes; going over paperwork, giving me her contact information and settling him in.

While she was there my husband and children came bursting through the door, smiling and exclaiming excitedly.

Little O smiled and shied away briefly, but soon my daughter’s animated chatter was more than he could resist.

He took her hand and trotted off toward the toy room.

His social worker took the opportunity to slip away after a quick goodbye to Little O, who didn’t react , and then it was just us…the newly expanded version of our family.

Little O has settled in remarkably well.

He remembers us from a few months ago and has slipped easily back into routines.

He is sleeping well and slowly starting to eat; the first night he refused to eat any dinner or snacks which is not real uncommon for a child settling into a new home.

There have been some minor growing pains for us all as we adjust to a noisy, high energy two-year-old in our home, but its really been quite easy so far.

Mostly it’s doubling things I’m already doing with Karter.

Double the diaper changes,

naptimes,

snacks,

hugs.

My children often need extra attention when a new child enters our home, so it takes extra patience and grace for all…including myself.

A week in I am reminding myself to be patient with some chaos as we all adjust,

take extra time to pull my daughters close,

snuggle Karter when I get the chance,

and bump a few things off my to do list.

I am reminding myself that it’s ok to feel frustrated when things don’t run as smoothly as normal and not to panic when I get sneaking feelings of regret at our normal being disrupted once again.

I am slowly adjusting to a new volume level in our home.

loudnoise

 

Little O is full of energy that comes pouring out in singing, laughter, and yelling across the house!

We had family Christmas celebrations with my parents and siblings on the weekend so Little O of course came with us.

I am so thankful for family who buys extra presents, sets an extra place at the table and finds extra room in their hearts for one more little boy.

Little O loved every moment of Christmas and was absolutely thrilled with his present.

He won us all over with his ecstatic cries of,

“Open presents!  Open presents!”

We don’t know how long Little O will be with us but we are praying we will love him the best that we can for as long as he is here with us.

We are praying we can be a part of healing for his family and that the social workers involved in Little O’s case will have wisdom to know what is best for him and his family.

We invite you to join us in praying for Little O and his family.

I love to pray the verses from Jeremiah 29:11 over the children in my care, particularly when I don’t know all the circumstances of their lives or what is all going on.

It helps my heart rest when I remember that God has good plans for them; plans for good and not for evil, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give a future and a hope.

These things I pray confidently, knowing that no matter what life may bring God has the ability to redeem brokenness and pain into something good.

We love you Little O!

XO

~AF