10 Ways to help your former foster children’s parents after reunification

I miss Z terribly. But at the same time I am so excited for his parents and so proud of how hard they worked. They still send pictures and I get to see him. Though I don’t know how long that will last I appreciate the fact that right now they are making his transition home easier on all of us (especially Bubba)

  1. Let them know their child’s schedule/likes and dislikes/etc. It will help the child transition and the parents will most likely be thankful. Zs parents asked me for all that information.
  2. Send their child with as much as you can. I’m not saying you should spend a lot of money or anything. However, when I knew Z was most likely going home I spent his stipend on clothes the next two sizes up and toys he will be ready for in a couple months.
  3. Let them know they can contact you with any questions. And don’t judge them for the questions they ask lol.
  4. Let them know that you consider them family and will support them. A lot of families part of the foster care don’t have the support they need. Offer to be that support.
  5. Offer to babysit. It will give them a break and you get baby cuddles.
  6. Invite them to family events. Zs parents came to our family Christmas. We all got to get see Z and his parents felt a sense of community.
  7. Continue to meet up with them in the community. If you don’t feel comfortable inviting them to your home, meet other ways.
  8. Be a mentor to them when it comes to parenting. Though I am not an expert on parenting at all. I have noticed that Zs parents ask me a lot of parenting questions and instead of judging them for not knowing, I support them.
  9. Help them find community resources. Sometimes there are resources out there that they don’t know about yet.
  10. Pray for them all

10 ways I save time

After Thursday’s post I got thinking and I realized that there are a lot of little things I do to help my self save time and maybe get some extra time to myself or extra sleep. Here are 10 ways I save time.

  1.  Having groceries delivered. Though it usually is an extra charge the last thing I want to do when I’m exhausted and stressed is take two kids to the store.
  2.  Getting my house cleaned. We keep our house pretty clean but once a month someone comes in and deep cleans my house. It saves me so much time. Though cleaning services are expensive you can try trading with a friend, they clean your hous and you babysit or mow their lawn or sow thing. I hate deep cleaning and would rather do anything else.
  3. Setting out clothes. After I do laundry on Saturday I set out everyone’s clothes for the week. I even check the weather to make sure we dress appropriate. This saves us so much time in the morning and I get 5 extra minutes of sleep.
  4. Making my lunches for the week on Sunday. I put every thing together in the fridge and just put it in my lunch box every morning.
  5.  Cooking in a crock pot. When I get home from a long day of work and something isn’t already prepared for dinner I will end up just ordering something. However, if something delicious and healthy is waiting for me in the crock pot I will save money and calories.
  6. Shower at night. I have said this before but if I didn’t shower at night I would be one crabby person in the morning.
  7. Have an automatic start in my car. Not only does this save time because I don’t have to take a trip out to the car but it’s probably safer then keeping my keys in my car.
  8. Amazon prime. I’m absolutely in love with amazon 🙂
  9. Not wearing make up. Okay I honestly do this because I have super sensitive skin and I haven’t found a single type of make up that doesn’t make me look like a giant red tomato after wearing it all day.
  10. Not sweating the small stuff. When I’m really stressed. Like this week. I just work on making sure I get everything done that needs to get done and don’t worry about the little things. Like the fact one of our toilets is broken.

10 things to do the first month of a new placement 

Now that you know the child(ren) a little bit better it is time to take care of business. That first month is full of meetings and asking questions.

  1. Talk to a caseworker.  If after the first week you don’t hear anything, start calling the licensing worker and agencies office. Have a list of questions ready.
  2. Find out about the court case. When you do finally talk to someone make sure you are all caught up on how the first court hearing went and when the next one will be.
  3. Find out information about the parents. Are the parents together? Is there any other family they are close to and will be seeing? How will you communicate with the parents?
  4. Meet the parents. This might not happen in every case but if you have the chance jump on it. Introduce yourself, ask them if there is anything you should know about their child, and let them know you are there to support them as well.
  5. Set up visits.  In some states you make have to drive the child yourself. In Illinois we have a program that drives the child and monitor visits. I have to spend a lot of time on the phone though making sure the days work with the kids school schedule.
  6. Set up therapy. I am a firm believer that any child 3 and over in foster care should be in therapy no matter what. Children need as many positive adults in their life that they can talk to.
  7. Go to the doctor. In Illinois you need to set up a doctors appointment within 28 days. I would set it up as soon as you get a placement. I would also make sure you have a list of questions ready especially if it is a younger child.
  8. Get a health history. You might be able to ask the casewoeker for a health history or the parents. It is very important to know as much information as you can about a child’s health.
  9. Ask the child if there is anything that you can do for them. Is there a sport they want to join? Friends or family they are hoping to see? A church they are part of? Try to see what you can do to make this time for the child as easy as possible.
  10. Take time for yourself. That first month is exhausting and especially if it is your first time parenting it can be very overwhelming. Find some time for yourself even if it’s just eating Oreos while watching tv (my favorite pastime)

10 things to do the first week of a new placement 

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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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.

10 things to do the first night of a new placement 

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) 

  1. 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.
  2. Prepare their room. I always have clothes for every age/gender I am licensed for so I can grab a couple outfits.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. Introduce everyone in your family (including pets). I always have foster children call me by my first name as well as my parents. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. Have them get to know you. Allow them to ask you any question they want and tell them silly things about you. 
  10. 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. 

10 Tips for surviving a road trip as a single parent 

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 🙂 🙂 🙂

10 Ways to Support a Child’s Biological Parent 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:
  10. 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.

10 Ways to Finish the Phrase “I can’t be a foster parent because …”

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…”

  1. I feel called to do something instead (mission work, travel the world, church ministry, etc).
  2. I don’t want kids.
  3. I don’t want anymore kids right now.
  4. My beloved dog/cat doesn’t do well with kids. 
  5. I don’t have time.
  6. My kids are all grown and I am enjoying not having kids in the house.
  7. I couldn’t handle all of the doctors appointments, caseworker visits, therapy appointments, etc.
  8. This isn’t the right time for me right now but I plan to in the future. 
  9. 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).

  1. I am not married.
  2. I don’t own a house.
  3. I work full time. 
  4. I have young kids.
  5. I have older kids.
  6. I don’t have any kids.
  7. I have pets
  8. I don’t want to adopt. 
  9. 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)
  10. 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. 

10 Ways to Support a Foster Parent 

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 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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