Receiving that first call for a placement can be such an exciting time.The unknown can be thrilling. I remember receiving our first placement call, like it was yesterday. I was at school, dismissing my last few students. I finished what I needed to do and rushed home to prepare. I knew that a five-year old girl was being placed in my home and there was so much to do to plan for her arrival. The following are tips to help prepare for your first placement.
Education or childcare – Based on our placement’s birthday and the information I had received, I figured she was still too young to have been enrolled in kindergarten. I immediately began calling preschools around the valley to see if they had openings and if they were approved through the state. Many states often offer child care subsidy programs. I knew that whatever preschool we picked it would need to be approved by the DCS worker (Department of Child Safety), so I wanted to make sure I had the school’s name, address, and phone number ready to pass along for approval.
Expectations – Try not to have any specific expectations and be flexible with your approach to each child. Just because you are excited about their arrival, does not mean that they will feel the same. It actually might be the opposite for them. They may not be looking forward to the placement at all and come with all sorts of feelings. Be sensitive to these feelings. Remember they were just taken from their loved ones and the environment they know. They may or may not understand why. You are a complete stranger. This can be a very overwhelming time for your child.
When Isabel arrived, Bryce and I planned that he would greet her, while I filled out the Notice to Provider and talked to the DCS worker. This was probably the only part of the plan that worked. I had a meal and snacks ready for her if she was hungry. Our poor girl could not eat. She was so quiet. Bryce and I tried to show Isabel the house and how to use things. We turned on the TV and tried to make her feel at home. Her eyes began to swell and it became obvious we had overwhelmed her. She asked if she could go to sleep. Again I had this bedtime routine planned bath, brush teeth, read stories, sing, and pray. Having met Isabel, I knew this routine needed to be shorten, and we stuck to the necessities.
Plan ahead – Be sure to have the basics in your home of what a child in your age range would need upon arrival. Basics include toiletries (toothbrush, brush, toothpaste, kid shampoo), clean pair of pajamas, underwear, and socks. Keep in mind teenager toiletries might include deodorant, pads, and tampons. Baby basics include diapers, wipes, bottles, and formula. Be prepared. I was glad we had the essentials ready to help Isabel have a comfortable first night. Clothes, shoes, and other essentials can be picked up or purchased the following day. I mention picked up, because there are a variety of resources out there for foster children and parents. I know that our licensing agency, such as, had clothes and school supplies available for foster children. At the end of this post I will include links of organizations you can go to get what you need for your foster child. Many of these organizations are in Arizona. If you are located in another state, your agency should have a list of organizations to help you with your needs.
Be ready to adapt to multiple situations As mentioned earlier, your child might show up with no clothes or personal items. They might have poor hygiene habits. They might have feces on body and lice. It became obvious that first night that Isabel was not used to running water or self-care. I had to teach her how to brush her teeth, and clean herself after using the restroom. Do not let poor hygiene throw you off. Be patient to help your child learn good self-care. Patience is key.
Many things that are norms for us, might not be for our children. They might have never slept in a bed before, or if they had, they were never alone. Being in your home, might bring about many firsts. Bryce and I cannot stress enough, be ready to adapt to whatever situation may arise.
Keep in mind that the Department of Child Safety is desperately seeking to place children in safe homes, but preferably with family or friends. DCS might not call you back to tell you that another home was found a better fit. Our first two calls I awaited into the night for those placements. Be warned now, they might not show up and that is okay. Our job is to be there and ready for when they do.
Foster Care Resources
- Helen’s Hope Chest – They provide kids in foster care with hygiene items, clothes, school supplies, books, and more. You can go around child’s birthday and receive a gift for child.
- Arizona Helping Hands – Provide cribs and beds to children in foster care. They also give hygiene items, clothes, school supplies, and more. Arizona helping hands also provides birthday gifts as well.
- Arizona Friend’s of Foster Children – This is a really cool foundation where you can apply to receive funds to get your child equipment for a sport, receive music lessons, catch up through tutoring, and the list is endless.
- Foster Hope Foundation – They collect clothing and supplies for foster children. They host events and provide scholarships for children.