Foster Care Day One

Day One

Imagine there was a tornado coming at your house. Suddenly and unexpectedly, you have to leave. You have less than five minutes — what do you grab? Unfortunately for children coming into foster care, they may have as little warning that they are entering a devastating emotional storm. Sometimes, even if the county is able to bring over a child’s own clothes and belongings the next day or a week later, the first night in foster care often leaves a child surrounded by strange, alien, unfamiliar items that bring little comfort.  If you can help make them feel welcome, instead of like an unexpected houseguest, that’s a good step in the right direction. Remember, this probably feels like the worst day of this child’s life.

Here’s what I suggest you have on hand:

  • A couple blankets and stuffed animal options — You’re probably not going to guess just the right stuffed bear out of all the bears in all the world, but if there’s anything that feels familiar and safe, that’s a win. Same goes for blankets: get a cotton one, a fleece one, a crocheted one, and a dimple dot one. Let the child have any or all that help.
  • Clothes that fit — Keep in mind this means you might need pajamas and one versatile, all-season outfit for boys and girls in a huge range of sizes. Not all two-year olds fit a 2T! Get a range and judge what works best. Call friends with older kids and ask for a box of nice hand-me-downs with this night in mind.
  • A new toothbrush — Maybe the child won’t want to brush (and I wouldn’t personally recommend dying on your sword for this the first night) but if they are willing, you want to be ready. Same goes for other personal hygiene items, depending on a child’s age: a new hairbrush and comb, a new deodorant, shampoo and lotion options appropriate for the child’s race or ethnicity.
  • A crate or a pet-sitter for your critter — Sure, your dog is “part of the family,” but until you know how this new child will react to Fluffy, allow at least this first night without one more “unknown.”
  • Easy food — This could mean many different things to many different kids, but having a bunch of choices is a good way to start. Noodles, chicken fingers, tater tots, and pizza with two gallons of ketchup for dipping may not be the healthiest meal, but a few bites of something is probably better than a howling tummy their first night sleeping in your home.
  • Baby things — If you are taking foster placements of babies, you should have a good stock of various diaper sizes, wipes, a car seat/booster seat, bottles, formula, a crib, and every single style of pacifier you can possibly locate. (You never know which will be the golden ticket!)

If you’re a friend to a foster parent, ask what ages of children they typically have in their home, and if it would be a help for you to be on the look-out for deals on clothes in those sizes.  If your foster parent friend tells you she’s getting a placement, offer to bring her that easy dinner for the child’s first night (but don’t barge in and “meet” the kid — drop it off and go). If nothing else, ask what time you can order a pizza for delivery to their house.

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Written by Kelley Rose Waller
Kelley has a B.A. in English and is an avid writer. She enjoys writing to offer others insights based on her own observations and life experiences including being a foster parent. You can find more of her writing on her personal blog at Kelley also writes fiction to imagine new life experiences. Her debut novel, The Senator's Youngest Daughter, was released on October 1, 2016. Kelley's day job as a marketing strategist offers her the opportunity to write and plan for clients in diverse fields. Kelley is a ridiculous fan of science fiction and board games. She and her husband are foster parents and live in Lancaster PA with their three sons and their dog. Kelley lives and writes to uplift and glorify the name of Jesus Christ.