This could not be further from the truth, and because foster families often don't know the age or gender of the child until the day they are called, we are often scrambling to get all that we need to take care of the child(ren), hence incurring added (and often unexpected or under budgeted) expense.
For instance, we were always told we wouldn't get a newborn, that they always went to county homes first; so we planned for 1-5 year olds. We had most of the basics and toys and a huge variety of clothing in different sizes and colors so we could be "ready". Our first placement came with nothing. She was 4 years old and came with what the county had given her. So of course, I raced out to Walmart and Target looking for pajamas and underware to start.
I called a friend of mine who's been doing foster care for awhile. She said just to start with the basics which was great advice. Once I got to know the child, and ask around, I soon had lots of clothing and "girl stuff" at my door step. What I didn't receive, I went to purchase.
Two weeks later, we got a call about a 4 day old baby boy. Yes, 4 days old. We were shocked because of what we had been told (that we would never get a newborn). My husband raced to the hospital, while I raced again to Target. This time, completely overwhelmed...
"What formula does he need?" "Formula is HOW MUCH?" "I need diapers, but what size?" "I need clothing but is he newborn, premie, 0-3?" "Pacifier? Carrier seat? Gah!?"
I then again, reached out to a foster mom friend who reached out to her network, and by the time we got our little guy home, we had nearly everything we needed.
Having shared my story, about feeling overwhelmed and unprepared, I came up with a list of tips, if you are caught in a sitution where you aren't as prepared as you thought you were when your foster kiddo(s) arrive.
- Ask for help- send a message to your friends (text, email, social media) asking for what you need (clothing size 0-3 month, boy or Toddler Bed, or whatever it is)
- Ask your agency if they have gift cards or an emergency clothing allowance
- Use social media to shop for gently used items (there are a ton of Facebook Sales groups you can join)
- Go to a consignment shop or thrift store - don't be afraid of second hand (but be sure to ask your agency if you can thrift shop for children's clothing)
- Make room for storage, as you will more than likely end up with more than you need
- Be careful when "asking" for items for foster children online. I did and got "virtually beat up" by anti CPS fanatics and judgemental people who just assume they come with everything
- Don't run out and buy everything or collect everything. You won't really know all that you need until they spend some time with you. You can create a list and begin looking for the best bargains
- Be sure to wash and sanitize anything you get used to ensure you don't bring anything unwanted into your home
- Keep an inventory of what belongs to the family and what belongs to the child, so that you can always differentiate
- Don't stress! The biggest things these kids need is a safe place to live and lots of love!
In case you are in the Sacramento / El Dorado County areas, November 7th is the 2nd Annual Mommy Market in Cameron Park!