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 Questions to Ask Your Licensing Worker 

Meeting with a licensing worker for the first time is very intimidating. Have a list of questions ready and take notes. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. What are the next steps? Make sure you have a good understanding of how a child will be placed in your care. 
  10. 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: 

10 Steps for Preparing to Become a Foster Parent 

I live in Illinois but every county/state is different. Below are my experiences. 

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