Today is Princess’s 10 birthday! Happy birthday baby girl. To celebrate here are 10 things I love about her.
- Her kindness. She is so thoughtful and does cute little things to show she cares like drawing one of us a picture or picking me flowers.
- Her acceptance of everyone. She has been so accepting of my foster children and doesn’t judge them.
- The fact that she is an amazing big sister. Whether it’s her baby brother or my foster children she is always there for her younger siblings and helping them out any way they need.
- Her art skills. This kid can draw. I have always been jealous since I don’t have an ounce of artistic talent.
- Her bravery. Princess has always been scare of a lot. However, she isn’t afraid to try to conquer her fears whether it is water slides or food that looks weird.
- Her musical talent. This kid can sing: I am so jealous.
- Her love of reading. She reminds me so much of myself when I was her age. She is never bored because she can always just grab a book.
- Her hair. I would give anything for ringlet curls. I am so jealous.
- Her love for me. This kid thinks I can do no wrong. There is something amazing and slightly terrifing about having a child trust you and love you unconditionally.
- The fact that I met her. I thank God every day that I am lucky enough to know her.
The first week with a new foster placement is all about getting to know the foster child and allowing them to get to know you. It is an overwhelming week but these steps are crucial in starting the foundation for them feeling at home and loved.
- Sign them up for school/daycare. This is always the first thing I do (during the school year). I take off the first two days I have a placement so that I can sign them up and then take them to school for the first day.
- Learn about any court dates and visits set up. The caseworker or licensing worker should call you within the first week to let you know when they child will be seeing their parents.
- Establish rules/chores. This is something I do very slowly. Everyone has their own way of setting down ground rules for foster kids. I prefer to just mention things as they come up.
- Be patient with the rules. They are in a brand new house and probably have forgotten your name already. Gently remind them the rules in your house. These rules are brand new to them and will take time.
- Go to the store with your foster child. Allow them to pick out food they like and clothing they like. Also maybe allow them to pick out a special toy. One time the day after I got a placement I took all my foster kids to a garage sale and let them pick out a toy.
- Take lots of pictures. It is always nice to have pictures to look back at. However, the point of taking pictures the first week is to be able to put pictures of your new foster kids around your house so they feel at home.
- Allow them to decorate their room. I always let my foster kids pick out wall stickers to put around their room. They always love it.
- Find out what they like to do and do it. Even if it is something small like building a puzzle together, show them you care about their interests.
- Go on a family outing. It can be something as simple as going to the movies together. Just do something to make them feel like part of the family.
- Know there will be some hiccups. Like finding out your new foster child only eats oatmeal for breakfast and you don’t have any in the house. It happens and you will figure it out.
That first night is scary and overwhelming for a foster child. Here are some tips for making them feel at home or for you to not be a nervous wreck (though to be honest I always am anyways…but these tips help me calm down a little)
- Breathe. After you hang up the phone it is a little nerve-racking. Take a deap breath and pray for the child(ren) you are about to meet.
- Prepare their room. I always have clothes for every age/gender I am licensed for so I can grab a couple outfits.
- Welcome them to your home. The children could be scared or they could open up to you right away. Have a movie going or toys out for them to play with while you talk to the placement worker
- Make sure to get all the information from the placement worker you need. In my experience placement workers are always rushed. Make sure you get the placement paperwork, medical card information, and ask any questions you might have. Also, always make sure you have the phone numbers you need.
- Introduce everyone in your family (including pets). I always have foster children call me by my first name as well as my parents.
- Give a tour of the house. Show the child the whole house so they are familiar. This is also a great time to go over the rules. Such as, make sure you lock the bathroom door when you are in there or no one is allowed in my bedroom.
- Make a kid friendly meal for dinner. I always have frozen pizza and mac n cheese on hand and I let them chose what they would like to eat.
- Get to know them. Ask them questions as long as they seem open to it. The first night I learned my first foster son loved the Seahawks which was my dads favorite team. My dad brought over a Seahawks blanket for him immediately and he still has it to this day even though he is no longer in my house.
- Have them get to know you. Allow them to ask you any question they want and tell them silly things about you.
- Allow them to have control. I’m a strict believer in very few rules that first night. I allow them to watch as much tv as they want, eat what they want, and go to bed when they want. They are usually scared and unsure of what is going on. I feel it’s important to not expect too much of them that first night.
It is so important to have a list of questions to ask a licensing worker. The first time I got a placement I was rediculed by the person on the phone for asking so many questions and I let it get to me. I ended up taking a placement that didn’t work out because I was afraid to ask questions.
- What are the ages and gender of the children? It is important to make sure that you are licensed for that age and that you have a spot for them in your house. Many times placement workers try to place kids with people who aren’t licensed for that age.
- Why were they removed? Or why are they being moved from their current foster home? This can help you understand what the kids have been through and what has happened to cause them to be removed.
- Is there any family wanting to have the children placed with them? Sometimes they will move to a family member as soon as they have a background check. This is good to know since chances are the placement will be temporary.
- Is this their first time being removed? Sometimes licensing workers can give you information on the history of the case.
- How did the health works check go? Does the kids have lice? Are they injured in anyway? Are there any special directions on their care?
- Do they have any allergies or medical conditions? Are they coming with medication? Is there anything you need to know medically?
- Is a visit set up with the parents? Make sure you write any dates down for upcoming appointments?
- Are they coming with anything? I have had children come with nothing and children come with a couple items. In my experience there is never time for the kids to grab much.
- What sizes are they? What size diaper do they wear? What formula are they on? If you know these things, you can run to the store or go through your storage. All of my foster children have come at night, so it was important to have atleast enough to get us through the night.
- When are you dropping them off? This gives you an idea of when to expect them so you can start preparing.
This summer I finally was able to get the siding put on my house. The wood on my house probably hadn’t been painted in 20 years and was rotting. Though I was very excited to finally get this project done, I was not excited to have my house turn into a construction site. I decided to go on a road trip for 10 days. Though there were some problems I have to say overall it was an amazing trip.
1. Bring snacks and comfort food. Both kids were tired of eating out pretty quickly so it was nice to pull out a mini box of their favorite cereal, some ramen, or easy mac when they wanted something they didn’t have to wait in line for.
2. Don’t drive a lot in one day. I planned my trip so I was only traveling three or four hours in one day. It was perfect because we were not in a rush and we could stop at tourist places on our way. The last day we ended up traveling 9 hours in one day and I have to say it was exhausting and I wouldn’t do it again.
3. Go somewhere kid friendly. I really wanted to go to Springfield and Kansas City since they are not places I have been been able to explore a lot. I made sure I had a list of good kid activities we could do at each destination in between doing what I wanted to do.
4. Stay at a hotel/campground with a pool. Everyplace we went had a pool and we even stayed at a water park for part of it. Kids love pools and it gave us something to do every night.
5. Do things that might seem too hard as a single parent. I went on a tube water slide with both kids at one time. I was absolutely amazed that Great Wolf Lodge had a water slide that fit three people on it and they they allowed children smaller than 4 feet to go on. I was even more amazed that both my kids wanted to go on it. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work since both kids are terrified of water slides. We got up to the front and my two year old started to cry. I started to freak out wondering what I was supposed to do now. The life guard took my two year old out of my arms and held him as I got myself and my nine year old situated. Thank god for nice strangers or I think we would have had to walk back down those scary steps. We were able to enjoy our water slide but sadly I could not convince my two year old to go back on.
6. Get extra help when needed. There were three points along my trip where I met with friends. It was so nice to have extra hands at the dinner table and to have adult conversation.
7. Give each child individual attention. I know it’s not always possible but kids love when they get special attention. A lot of times on the trip I had each kid take turns picking an activity. I also always spent nap time hanging out with my older daughter so she didn’t feel like the “baby” was getting all the attention.
8. Treat yourself. I spent every night watching my favorite show and eating Oreos. I love my kids but it was important for my sanity to make sure I made this trip about me as well.
9. Don’t be afraid to change plans. We drove home a day early because we all needed to sleep in our own beds. It’s okay to change plans based on how your kids are feeling or doing.
10. Have fun 🙂 🙂 🙂
As a foster parent one of our most important jobs is to work with our foster child’s biological parent and work towards the goal of reunification. I learned a lot from trying to hold a relationship with Princess’s mother and co-parenting with her father even after we broke up. Here are some tips I have learned.
- Do not judge. This is the hardest one I think. Sometimes they have done things that to us are unforgiveable. Chances are they had a rough childhood as well or they could have a mental illness or a history of addiction. Don’t judge them since you just don’t know.
- Only speak kindly of them in front of the children. It’s important to remember that their children still love them. My favorite video during Pride was when the foster mom pointed out the her foster child that the child had their mothers eyes. That might have been the only nice thing she had to say but she found something positive to focus on.
- Communicate (if possible). This could be the form of letters, email, or even my phone. If you cannot communicate with the child’s parents maybe there is another family member you can stay in contact with.
- Keep them updated on everything. Let them know about what happened at doctors appointments (if they don’t attend), their child’s grades, their child’s behavior, their child’s development etc. I copy the developmental recommendations the doctor gives me at the healthy kid checks ups and send to both parents. Even tell them the small things like when they go up a size of clothes and/or shoes, what they did over their weekend, or when they have a new favorite toy/color/food/movie.
- Send pictures/art work. This is something simple but it means a lot to the parents. Parents love to see pictures of their kids and you can even write little captions on the back. Parents also like to have art work they can keep and show others. Even babies can make handprint and footprint art.
- Be a resource for the parent. Sometimes bio parents haven’t been taught or shown proper parent skills. Be an example for them and let them know that if they need advice you are there and won’t judge.
- Have the parent be a resource for you. Ask them information about the child (especially in the beginning): their likes and dislikes, what products to use on their hair and skin, health concerns and allergies, etc. This shows the parent that you recognize that they know their kids.
- Include them in decisions. Ask them about activities to sign their kids up for, what to do for their birthday, how to cut their hair. This shows you appreciate their input (and they are getting a say in how their kids are being raised) even if it’s something small.
- Observe a visit (if possible). I think this is the best way to get to know the bio parent and show them that you respect them as a parent. It also shows the kids that you are on the same page and supporting each other:
- Remember the goal of fostering is reunification. This is so hard for me sometimes especially when something has happened that makes me question if reunification is best. But then I have to remember that it is not my job to decide whether they are a fit parent. It is my job to do what I can to support the child and parents.
Please stop saying things like “I can’t be a foster parent because it would be too hard to let them go” or “I can’t be a foster parent because I would get too attached”. There are many legit reasons not foster but caring too much isn’t one of them. I truly believe you have the right intentions. You are offending foster children everywhere by saying foster children are not worthy of your love. You also just made the foster parent you just said that to feel like you think they are heartless. Foster children need people to get attached. The number one job of a foster parent is to love and care for them. Yes, saying good bye is heartbreaking. However, they need to feel happiness and a home just like any other child. Fostering is a journey that is not meant for everyone. Below is a brief list of 10 things that I feel would be acceptable to come after the phrase, “I can’t be a foster parent because…”
- I feel called to do something instead (mission work, travel the world, church ministry, etc).
- I don’t want kids.
- I don’t want anymore kids right now.
- My beloved dog/cat doesn’t do well with kids.
- I don’t have time.
- My kids are all grown and I am enjoying not having kids in the house.
- I couldn’t handle all of the doctors appointments, caseworker visits, therapy appointments, etc.
- This isn’t the right time for me right now but I plan to in the future.
- I just don’t want to (that’s a perfectly fine excuse).
I would like to include ten things that are not on my list. (All of the below things are not reasons not to foster).
- I am not married.
- I don’t own a house.
- I work full time.
- I have young kids.
- I have older kids.
- I don’t have any kids.
- I have pets
- I don’t want to adopt.
- I can only afford my self right now (ask a DCFS worker about financial what support is provided and what costs the state is responsible for)
- I am not sure how to become a foster parent (Look it up! Google is your best friend)
There are many many reasons not to foster and all of them are valid. But if the only reason you can think of is because you are afraid of getting hurt or loving a child who isn’t yours maybe you should consider fostering.
I am lucky. I have a truly wonderful support system. Fostering takes a whole community so here is a list of things that you can do to support a foster parent. Not all these things are possible for everyone but
- Listen to them. Sometimes as a foster parent we don’t feel like we have a “right” to complain since we chose this. Let the foster parent in your life know it’s okay to vent to you.
- Watch the kids. In some states this might mean that you have to background check but let them know you are willing to begin the process.
- Come over and help out. Maybe you don’t want to babysit, so offer to go over to their house and be an extra hand. The week after I received a placement of two kids (ages 22 months and 8 at the time) was my foster sons 10th birthday and I promised him we could go to six flags. I had friends offer to come with so that he had an adults to ride rides with while I stayed with the almost two year old.
- Bring food. Those first couple weeks of having a new placement are stressful. The less a foster parent has to worry about those first weeks the more they can focus on the kids.
- Offer to be the person they call to go run out and pick things up. A foster parent may only have an hour it is always great to have people available to go to the store and pick up diapers or clothes so they can wait for the children.
- Donate your children’s old clothes/baby gear. I have a basement full of different sizes of clothes and toys. It is great to be able to go downstairs and grab things I need. It takes a little bit of the stress away.
- Do laundry/clean the house. During a really stressful week my mom came over and did all my laundry. It was never something I would ask for but it allowed me to focus on the kids who needed me.
- Offer carpool. I spend a lot of time in the car driving to different appointments. If you could take my child to swim lessons this week so I can stay home and wash my dishes, I would be forever grateful.
- Invite them to go places with you. I went from a single women to a parent in the blink of an eye. I appreciated when coworkers or acquaintances invited me to do kid related activities with them.
- Love the kids. Seriously though! I am over joyed by how my family and friends have treated my foster children as part of the family. They give them gifts, and write them letters, and include them in everything we do. It’s the little things that countS
Meeting with a licensing worker for the first time is very intimidating. Have a list of questions ready and take notes.
- What do you need to do to become a foster parent? This is different for every state and even every county. This usually includes getting your house ready, getting a letter from your doctor, getting a background check, and taking a pride class. Make sure you make a list of everything you need to do to keep track.
- Are you qualified to be a foster parent? Though most everyone can be a foster parent there are some things that could prevent you from becoming a foster parent like having a felony or not being medically cleared to take care of children.
- How many children can you foster in your home? This is usually dependent of the size of the bedrooms and how many beds you can have. I would wait till the licensing worker measures the rooms before you go ahead and purchase beds and cribs.
- What age and gender of children can you have? This is dependent on the set up of your house and whether or not you have biological children who will share a room with them.
- What do you need to have set up before you are licensed? Most states require all of the beds and cribs to be set up before you get licensed.
- What do you need to change about your home? You might need to lock up medication, baby proof, lock up your guns, change your water temperature, or put a fence around your pool, etc
- What is my role as a foster parent? Do you have to transport a visit? What are you required to document? Make sure your licensing worker fully covers everything you are required to do.
- What are the guidelines? Make sure you understand all of the rules about discipline, confidentiality, supervision of foster children, as well as all other guidelines your state has. It is important to have a strong understanding of the rules before your first placement.
- What are the next steps? Make sure you have a good understanding of how a child will be placed in your care.
- Are there any children in need now? Sometimes licensing workers know of children that are in need of a home right away and they can place a child with you as soon as you are licensed:
I live in Illinois but every county/state is different. Below are my experiences.
- Decide this is the journey you want to take. Talk to other people and do as much research as you can. You can also call your local DCFS to see if there are any support groups or classes they offer.
- Research foster agencies. Do you want to work with DCFS directly or a private agency? I would call the local agencies and ask them questions. See what the differences are and decide what works best for you. Some agencies work only with older kids or only kids free for adoption. I decided to work with dcfs since they transport kids to parent visits and therapy. Since I am a full time single parent that was a necessity for me. The best best fit for you truly depends on your needs and your purpose for fostering.
- Contact the foster agency and set up your first visit. This first visit is always nerve racking but it is important to remember that the licensing worker just wants to meet you and give you more information on fostering. I would make a good impression by having your house clean and presentable. I would also have a list of questions ready.
- Decide how many kids/what ages you want to foster. This will be important because for the different age ranges their are different requirements. For example in Illinois children under 7 they have to sleep on the same floor as an you.
- Find out the requirements for your agency. How many kids can you have per room? What temperature does your water heater have to be set at? Can you have bunk beds? Can babies sleep in your room? What do you need to do with medication? How securely do you need to lock up your guns? It is probably best to ask these questions to your licensing worker but you can also research these questions online.
- Begin readying your house for the next inspection. You will need to make sure you have beds/cribs for the number/ages of the children you have on your license. You will also need to make sure medicine is correctly stored, there is a fence around your pool, your water heater is set to the correct temperature, among other things.
- Start telling people you are fostering. There are many ways you can do this. However, it doesn’t have to be a big announcement. Let your close friends and family know that you are starting this journey. They will probably have a lot of questions but they will also probably want to know how they can support you.
- Take your pride classes. Pride classes are very informative. Take lots of notes. Ask lots of questions. And make friends. The people you meet in pride class can be a great support system S you go on this journey.
- Get licensed. Your licensing worker will probably have to do one last walk through after your pride classes and fill out more paperwork. It might take a while but eventually you will get the license in the mail.
- Wait. Once you are licensed what you have to do is wait by the phone for that call. While you wait though I would search garage sales and resale shops for clothing, toys and other supplies that you might need for your age range. One thing I have found helpful is having different size bikes/scooters so that we can go on a lot of walks and bike rides that first week.