If you are thinking about welcoming foster children into your home you may be asking yourself, “What do I need to do to prepare for foster kids?”
The truth is that the whole process of getting your home and your family ready can be quite an undertaking. There are the emotions (nervousness, anticipation, excitement, fear…) There are practical tasks to get done (child-proof the house, get through your home inspection…)
And let’s not forget the time you spend waiting… Waiting to get your fingerprints back, waiting to get your inspection, waiting to get through training, and of course, waiting for your foster child to arrive.
Getting your home prepared for foster care is really a balance. You have so much to do and yet you also have so much waiting…
Here are some important steps you can take (while you wait) to prepare your home for foster kids
- Create a Welcoming and Safe Foster Bedroom
- Create a Welcome Basket for Your New Foster Kids
- Have a “Yes” Basket of Food Available
- Store Medications and Cleaners Safely Out of Reach of Foster Children
- Set Up Storage for Clothes, Toys, and Supplies that is Organized and Accessible
Preparing Your House for a Foster Child
If you have already started the process of talking with a Foster Care Agency or your state’s child welfare department, then you know that there is a whole list of things that will need to be done to prepare your house. This includes all of the requirements for passing a foster care home inspection.
If you have not started the process with an agency or the state, make sure to get that ball rolling before you do anything else. This is important as different agencies and states have different requirements for foster homes.
In addition to all of the requirements that you will need to work on (hello fire ladders and locked medicine cabinets…) There are also some practical considerations you can work on to help you be as prepared as possible.
Here are some of my top tips for first time foster parents when it comes to getting your home prepared for foster kids.
Create a Welcoming and Safe Foster Bedroom
Most kiddos will come into our homes feeling scared, overwhelmed, intimidated, and full of grief (sadness, anger, detachment) over having been removed from their parents.
The bedroom that they will sleep in will be the first opportunity that you have to show the child that they are welcome and safe.
How to Make a Foster Bedroom a Safe and Welcoming Space
One way to set your bedroom up to be comforting is to decorate with soft, neutral, calming tones. You don’t need a lot of décor or styled bedding. Once the child settles in you can allow them the opportunity to pick out some items that they will enjoy.
Another way to make the bedroom feel like a welcoming place that is specifically for them is to provide a space for their belongings that is just for them. I like using under bed storage containers for my kids.
I also make sure to have items like a night light, a soft cozy blanket, and a few soft stuffed animals in the room for their use. These items will help ease some of the fear and nervousness that comes from having to sleep in a new strange place.
Making a Foster Bedroom Safe for Kids
Another important aspect to consider when it comes to kids’ bedrooms is to make sure to not have a lot of breakable items or expensive furniture.
Many foster kids struggle with angry outbursts and providing a room that is safe during a tantrum upfront is much easier than trying to remove dangerous items in the middle of a meltdown. (Been there, done that… don’t recommend it.)
Additional Ideas for Preparing a Foster Bedroom
If you would like additional ideas and tips, I have a whole article that walks you through all of my experience and best tips. Check out this article on How to Set Up a Foster Care Bedroom here.
Create a Welcome Basket to Prepare for Your New Foster Kids
When it comes to figuring out how to make a foster child feel safe and welcome in your home, a welcome kit is a great way to make that first welcoming impression.
A welcome kit should contain some necessary items as well as some comforting items. Here is what I keep in mine: (I usually only foster elementary aged kids – if you foster little ones or teens, you may want to adjust the items a bit.)
- Who’s Who Introduction Sheet
- Soft Stuffed Animal – I like these heatable soothing stuffed animals that smell like lavender.
Have a “Yes” Basket of Food Available
Another area to consider is how you want to present food to your foster kids. Most of the kids we have had in our home have done fine with having free range in the kitchen.
We have had a couple of kids though that really struggled with this. When kids have come from severe poverty and/or neglect, they can develop some unhealthy habits around food.
For example, we have had kids hoard snack items from the pantry in their beds. We have also had kids who would eat until they were sick because they didn’t know how to stop. (Heartbreaking when you start to think about why these kids had these behaviors…)
One good solution to the food issue is to have a yes basket or drawer. This is a space where you store healthy snacks that kids can have any time they want or need a snack.
Items to Include in a Yes Basket:
- Granola bars
- Fruit (apples, bananas, mandarin oranges)
- String Cheese
- Apple Sauce
I like to keep my Yes container in the fridge so that I can include some dairy products.
Store Medications and Cleaners Safely Out of Reach
One of the important preparations you will need to make for your foster home is to find a safe way to store medications, cleaners, and other chemicals.
Use a Cabinet or Closet for Storing Medications
Let’s be honest, one of the most annoying parts of setting up your home for foster care is having to lock up all of the medications and vitamins. (I totally get why we do it but it is still a pain when you have a headache and have to unlock things to get some Tylenol.)
Plus, when you have a family you end up with a lot of different medications. You need cold meds, first aid ointments, vitamins, pain relievers, and so on. And this is all before you even get into talking about prescription medications.
While most standards require a locked medicine box, I would not recommend this as your main form of storage. They are small and don’t hold nearly enough to be helpful. (I do like using locking medicine boxes in my nightstand or bathroom with my daily vitamins and Tylenol.)
Instead, I have found that using a closet or a cabinet works much better.
In my old house I had a storage closet that I changed out the door knob with a keyless lock style knob.
Inside the closet, I hung a clear plastic shoe organizer on the door and arranged medications into the different pouches. This allowed me to maximize my storage space which is always important when it comes to closets!
I also kept a lock box in this closet for medications that required a double lock.
Currently, I use a cabinet system as my medication (and alcohol) storage. I found a really handy locker style cabinet at Ikea that fit in my pantry. This has been great as it allows me to keep all of my kids’ medications in one central accessible place.
I also found some great RFID cabinet locks for my bathroom cabinet where I keep all of the adult medications and vitamins. I can easily unlock this using my phone or the card that it came with.
Storing Cleaners and other Chemicals Safely Away from Foster Children
Whether or not you plan on fostering young children, you will most likely be required to store your cleaning chemicals out of reach from children.
If you have a closet to keep these in (along with your medications as discussed above) this can be an easy solution.
Currently I store our cleaners in a cabinet above our washer and dryer. It isn’t quite as convenient as my old closet was but it works. I also have child locks on the cabinet under the sink which satisfied our agency and allows me to keep a bottle of Clorox wipes and my dishwashing soap handy.
Set Up Storage for Clothes, Toys, and Supplies that is Organized and Accessible
There are a few different things to consider when it comes to storage and foster kids.
The Best Way to Store Clothes for Foster Kids
One thing you will end up with (if you don’t already have it) is a lot of extra clothing. You will want to find a space and a system for storing all of the extra clothes.
I really like using see-through stacking storage bins like this for clothing. Label the front with the size and gender so that you can easily identify what is in each box. I also recommend keeping a separate bin of winter clothing (coats, hats, scarves, gloves, etc.)
Make sure to wash the clothes before packing them away as it is so much easier to not have to wash some jammies in the middle of the night for an emergency placement that shows up without anything but the clothes on their back.
I also like to keep a set of jammies and one complete outfit at the top of the bin so that I can easily grab what I need.
Storing Supplies and Toys for Your Foster Children
Another area where you will eventually end up having a lot of items to store is toys and supplies. (Especially if you foster babies or toddlers!)
I have found it helpful to have a system in place to keep some things stored away yet easily accessible. This helps my house stay more under control than if I had everything out all the time.
For toys, I have some bins that I have sorted toys into that stay in a closet. These toys are ones that my kids have mainly grown out of but that our younger foster children will still want to play with.
I do the same thing when it comes to supplies. Since we only foster elementary kids we don’t have the same level of supplies that you will need if you are open for birth-5 for example. However, we still have extra bedding, lunch boxes, back packs, school supplies, etc.
Instead of always wondering about what I should have ready for foster kids, I organize my supplies ahead of time.
Keeping a bin inside of a closet helps me easily locate what I need when we have a new placement. This can be really helpful as those first few days can be so chaotic and hectic.
Preparing a Welcoming Home for Fostering
Fostering a child can be difficult and full of to-do lists, big emotions, and so much more. The good news is that there are many great ways to prepare for foster kids.
Spending time now, before you have your first foster placement will help you be as prepared as possible.