Friday, September 28, 2012

"Foster Friday" Tips: Always Be Prepared

Last year, our 2011 "Foster Friday" panel wrote about always being prepared as a foster parent.  I never got around to adding my tidbits of advice, so I thought for this week's "Foster Friday" Tips, I would give you guys my practical guide on how I prepare and maintain a logistical "level of readiness" between placements.

What Large Gear Do I Keep On-Hand?

Because I generally only foster infants and toddlers (although I'm increasing my age with my next placement), most of my gear and equipment is for those ages.  I have accumulated quite a bit of gear over the years like a bathseat for older toddlers who refuse to sit down in the bath, an umbrella stroller, a larger stroller, a pack 'n play, etc, but the larger items that highly recommend investing in are:

  • Convertible cribs - I have two cribs that easily convert to toddler beds and then to full-size beds.  If I get the call for a 2-year-old, I can easily change the crib to a toddler bed in a matter of minutes without having to purchase a separate piece of furniture.  Bringing me a 9-year-old?  As long as I have a full-size mattress and rails, I can convert the crib to a full-size bed.  It is absolutely worth the investment if you plan on fostering multiple ages.
  • Convertible Spacesaver High Chair - These things are awesome!!!  They are the same size as a full-size high chair, but strap directly onto your dining room chairs so they take up much less room.  They recline for smaller infants, adjust for larger infants, and even convert to regular booster seats for preschoolers.

  • Convertible carseats and boosters - I always have one infant carrier for my tiny babies, but generally the carseats that you will get the most use out of are the convertible carseats that go from rear-facing to forward-facing.  I also keep a couple of inexpensive booster seats on-hand for older children.

  • Convertible (I sense a theme here...) infant/toddler bathtub - These things are great!  One tub works for newborns until they start standing up.  I usually switch to a bath seat once they start pulling that trick though.  ;-)
Basically, the name of the game when it comes to your larger gear, equipment, and even toys is "convertible, convertible, convertible!!!"

What Smaller Items Do You Keep On-Hand?

"Houston, we have a problem..."
Okay, so I will admit that I might go a wee bit overboard when it comes to keeping clothing on-hand, but I cannot begin to tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about a midnight Walmart run on top of new placement paperwork, appointments, and calming your new child.  Most of the children who come through your door will have nothing but the clothes on their backs.  Munchkin didn't even have that much.  She came to me in a hospital gown!  So having a good assortment of clothing for the age range you want to foster is a huge help.

And That's Just the CLOTHES!!!
It certainly isn't necessary to keep the amount of clothing that I tend to keep, but I would definitely recommend keeping pajamas and a couple of outfits for each season on-hand for your age ranges.  If you do have to make a Walmart run on Day Two, at least they'll be appropriately dressed.

Storage bins are a foster mother's best friend, and I have them in abundance. On top of neatly organized clothing bins, I also have bins for kitchen and feeding items, toys, etc.  For my age groups, I keep:
  • Bottles, new nipples (all sizes), a variety of sippy cups, utensils, bibs, divided plates, take 'n toss containers, formula dispenser, etc.  Having all of the kitchen supplies in one tub makes it easy when a new little one comes through the door.

  • Basic toys for different ages - I try not to keep a lot of toys between placements.  I tend to send the favorites home with my kiddos when they leave, and restock the "basics" like stacking cups, stacking rings, sorting toys, board books, etc.  Each child will have their own preferences for toys, so I try to keep a few "standard learning toys" on-hand and buy more specific things for my kiddos as I learn what interests them.

What Items Do You Make CERTAIN That You Have for New Placements?

I send all of my kiddos' personal, medical, and grooming items home with them, so between placements, I just restock all of those items.  Often times, a new baby will come through your door with a fever or teething.  The last thing I want to worry about is having to run to the store with a sick baby for Tylenol because I sent it home with Monkey.  Stocking up on the maintenance items keeps me occupied and kiddo-focused until the new one arrives.  I always try to make certain that I have:

  • A New Soft Blanket and New Stuffed Animal - Every child who comes through my door immediately gets a new soft blanket and stuffed animal.  So many of these little ones have nothing.  They are scared and uncertain in a new place with strangers, and those two comfort items seem to be the least I can do for them.

  • Diapers and Wipes - I always try to keep one package of diapers in each size on-hand as well as a package of baby wipes.  You're lucky if your baby comes to you in a properly-fitting diaper and even luckier if they come to you with an extra diaper.  Storing a few small packages (or even just a handful of diapers in each size) can keep you going a day or two as you get settled in.

  • Grooming Supplies - I send all of these home with my kiddos, so I replace hairbrushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, nail clippers, lotion, bath soap, shampoo, etc.  I know I'm going to need them, so I might as well have them ready!

  • General Medications & Medical Supplies - Medications go home with my kiddos too, so I restock on the "basics."  Tylenol, Mylicon Drops, Teething Tablets, and always, always, always a new "snot sucker!" (aka. nasal aspirator ;-)
The world of foster care is packed full of uncertainties, twists, and turns.  There isn't much that a foster parent can control when it comes to decisions made regarding their foster children.  There isn't much that a foster parent can plan ahead when it comes to handling their children's emotional needs.  Each child is different, and those moments of emotional upheaval will all look different.  But when it comes to their children's physical needs...  We can always be prepared!


Jen said...

Stopping by from the Foster2Forever FB page.

This post was a wealth of information for us! We are in the process of our classes. All the paperwork has been accepted and now the next step is our homestudy. YEA!

Sarah Penn said...

This is a great list! I am on the hunt on how to prepare! :):)

Unknown said...

Have taken most of the required classes for foster/adoption and we're starting on all the paperwork. Reading blogs to get ideas. Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

How is it fostering children under the age of 2? My husband and I are in the process of filling out paperwork, and I am a bit nervous simply because it isn't something I have experienced.

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