Getting ready for kids is difficult for new foster parents. It's not like biokids where you know the ETA of your bundle for about 9mo, you know how many you're bringing home, and that they'll be newborn, and you might even know the gender of your tiny human. When gathering all the paraphernalia necessary for child rearing, we had no idea how many siblings were coming to us or how old they would be. We only had our certification guidelines to go by. We are certified for up to 4 boys and/or girls birth- 5yrs. When our 1st baby came to us, we had 6hrs before picking him up. With our 2nd, it was 45min. How do you prepare for that?
We have 2 bedrooms setup for children. This meant giving up Brandon's man-cave and the guest bedroom. We painted one room blue and the other room pink. Although if I had to do it over, I'd do both gender neutral. The blue room is set up in a teddy bear theme, and the pink room in a butterfly theme. We wanted something familiar and comforting for our kids. We own a bassinet, 1 apartment sized crib, 2 full size cribs, 2 toddler beds, and a twin over double bunk bed. We keep the hard to move items set up and the easier to move beds in the attic. Craigslist is your friend when finding beds fast and cheap.
In the very beginning we owned 3 newborn pajamas that were given to us and a couple 2T tshirts and cotton pants I bought at Walmart for $1.00 each on clearance. When my kids leave, I make sure they go home with a full wardrobe for a whole year, but I keep clothes that have sentimental value to me but not the biofamily. So now, after 3 kids, I have a diaper box of clothes for every size NB-2T
I didn't have to buy a lot of toys for foster care since I ran a daycare in my home previously. Kids that come into my home will want to see barbies, baby dolls, GI Joe's, and superheroes that resemble their own race. Older children that come into care may not know how to play with electronic toys appropriately, so if it's too costly to get broken, it's probably not a good fit for our kids. Imaginative play is very healthy for kids in care. My kitchen set and farm were great choices. I like to keep toys in large wicker baskets or colorful laundry baskets to make cleanup as easy as possible for the child who may have never had to put away toys before. Plenty of soft, comfort toys for children to sleep with are a must. My 2nd son sleeps with so many cloth books, teddy bears, lovey blankets, and plush baby balls I don't know how he even fits in the bed. But they make him feel safe, and that's all that matters.
Just as with the toys, books have to feature pictures of people from all ethnicity's. Tactile books are always a hit- the ones where there are different textures to touch on each page. Great tactile books are:
Little Feet Love (Tiny Tootsies Touch and Feel Books) by Anthony Nex
Little Hands Love (A Tiny Handsies Touch and Feel Book) by Piggy Toes Press and Photography by Anthony Nex
Little Feet Like... (Giggle and Grow) by Piggy Toes
Some of my favorite books to have for kids in care are:
Billy had to move by:Theresa Ann Fraser
Finding the right Spot: when kids can't live with their parents by Julia Levy
The Star: A story to help young children understand foster care by Cynthia Miller Lovell
Maybe Days: A book for children in foster care by Jennifer Wilgocki
Keeping ethical diversity in mind, of course. The Cinderella movie starring Brandy is a great example of positive diversity in a film. The 1980's TV series Punky Brewster is now out on DVD, and is all about little girl who is unable to live with her parents. The 1st season directly addresses foster care.
6. Car seats.
3 in 1 convertible car seats are the way to go when preparing for foster care. Walmart sells a Costco brand for under $40. These seats can be rear facing for babies under 1yr, forward facing, and can be used as a booster. Most 3in1's are good for 5- 40lbs. We own 2 convertible 3 in 1's, 2 infant carrier style seats, and 2 boosters.
7. Feeding utensils and food
It's a good idea to have plastic kids dinnerware around. Even older children may not know how treat real plates and silverware. Until I know, I use cute little robot set that I picked up at Target for $1 per piece. As for food, I keep a package of hot dogs and a few boxes of Mac'n'cheese around as well as Cheerios, Oreos, or Goldfish crackers. You want to present the child with some food fairly soon after they come to your home, so having stuff that every kid recognized is a great idea. After that, you can feel the child out for what they like. Because I take babies, I also keep a spare can of Enfamil Premium formula because I know that's the formula the foster care clinic our kids go to prefer. We own around 20 bottles in 3 different brands, just in case baby has a preference. My favorite are the Soothie brand bottles. They're easy to clean and the formula powder doesn't get all over like the bottles with smaller mouths. Our 1st baby wouldn't take them, our 3rd only took them... Bottle brands are a crap shoot. Same goes for sippy cups, we have 1,000 different kids of those as well.
Those are the basics that we got when preparing for kids. Getting the house ready was so much fun. We still have to do a Target run everytime we take a new placement, but everything bought for the child after they are already with us is theirs and will go with them when they leave.
Right now we are going through the house to see what can be tossed or needs replacing. We are getting ready to take a new placement when babies 2&3 go home. 2yrs and 3 bbies later, I still got excited when I went to walmart to restock our binkies and baby dolls!