How to Make a Bed for Foster Children

Many things go into preparing to be foster parents. Having been a foster mom for a couple of years to eight different children, I recommend giving some thought to bedding for the new kiddos.

1. Waterproof Mattress Pad. A waterproof mattress pad is a foster family essential. Bedwetting is more common with foster kids, even into their teen years, because bedwetting can be aggravated by stress . Kids who didn’t get enough to eat may also hoard food in their rooms. Depending upon the food, you could end up with some gloppy messes. Protect that expensive mattress!

2. White Bed Sheets. Why white? You may want to bleach those bed sheets – see the reasons in #1 and in case of lice (happens to all kids). Boys and girls are equally fine with white. White is good for all ages – those super cute Elmo sheets are awesome to little kids, but the older set would be mortified. Kids may come with a favorite blanket and white will match it guaranteed. If every sheet is white, you can wash them all at once – no worrying about sorting lights, darks, and whites. And trust me, you’ll be doing enough laundry as it is.

3. Soft Blankets. A little extra comfort from a soft blanket can help ease a child’s troubles. Children in care have gone through trauma and night time can be particularly difficult for some. Perhaps the night was when bad things happened, like sexual assault or their parents reached maximum drunkenness or it was when they were left alone. Kids often keep themselves too busy in the day to think about the trauma, but the memories surface as they try to fall asleep. Kids can also be prone to bad dreams. A child can snuggle, pet or rub a plush blanket or one with a satin trim to help soothe themselves.

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4. Neutral Bed Spread. Again, neutrals work with both boys and girls of all ages. I like blue for a bedspread, but gray, green, and black could work, too. The right neutral can be mixed and matched with a variety of paint on the walls and other beds. Why is that important? Because you might need to reconfigure your bedroom set-ups if you take in more than one child. A sibling set of two could be one boy and one girl, meaning separate bedrooms. But it could be two girls (or two boys) and you want to put them together, so that when your family comes to visit you have a guest bedroom – or when their third sibling comes for respite.

5. Flare: Stuffed Animals and Throw Pillows. To rescue your foster child’s room from becoming too blah or too sterile, you can add easy-to-swap-out “flare.” I often put stuffed animals on the bed. Most kids like big stuffed dogs or teddy bears, though I’ve gotten some “older kid” items like animals or characters from popular video games. Throw pillows can do the same trick.

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6. Hypoallergenic Pillows. If you’re going to buy new pillows, play it safe and get hypoallergenic ones. Why run the risk of red eyes and runny noses if you don’t need to?

7. An Extra Throw. We do both long-term foster care and short-term, respite care. Some kids are used to cool bedrooms and others prefer warmer. The easiest solution is to provide an extra blanket folded on the end of the bed for them to use – or not. It can also add a bit more flare to your neutral bedspread.

8. Bed Furniture. If you need to buy more beds, but don’t have lots of money to spend, consider buying twin beds from a flea market or garage sale. A few quick coats of black, white or grey paint and they’ll all match each other. [Note: Don’t paint cribs as teething babies may chip off the paint and eat it.]

9. Bedrails. A twin bed can work for little ones if you add bedrails that keep them from falling out of the bed.  If you don’t what these are, Amazon has some examples, though you can easily get them at Walmart, Target, or other such stores.

So, now you’ve made a bed for a foster child.  Let’s hope the kiddos will make their bed, too. 😉

The First Hours of Respite

Ever wonder what the first hours of respite are like for foster care?  This evening we welcomed three brothers aged 14, 13, and 9 to stay with us over the weekend while their foster dad is out of town.  Here’s how it’s gone down so far.

On Monday, the placement worker emailed us asking if we could take three boys for a couple of days, beginning on Friday.  All we knew were date, ages and gender.  Since we were interested, she emailed us more info – a paragraph on each child listing their name, a sentence about their individual personalities, one or two of their interests, their academic performance, and the medicine they take.  We asked for the diagnoses to go along with the medication and whether their symptoms were well controlled by medication.  So with this scarce info we said yes.

We drove half way to pick up the boys, agreeing to rendezvous with their foster dad in the parking lot of the local grocery store.  We had no idea what they looked like, but knew their foster dad drove a blue Ford Explorer.  We saw a car that we thought was them, but when we waved and they didn’t wave back – well oops!  Not them.  Another Explorer approached.  We waved and they waved back.  Yay!  We found them.

They pulled over and everyone piled out.  We introduced ourselves and the boys immediately jumped into our car.  I made a bit of small talk with the foster dad, who we were also meeting for the first time.  But it was cold.  And we were in a busy parking lot.  So after 2-3 minutes my husband and I hopped into our car and drove off.

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Food’s always an easy topic, so my husband asked the boys if they liked pizza and, if so, what they’d want on theirs.  After an enthusiastic yes and a lively conversation on the merit of pepperoni over plain cheese, we called in the order for delivery.  We moved on to the topic of sports.  Basketball was a favorite so we talked up the hoop in our neighborhood.  Two things for the kiddos to look forward – a great way to overcome the weirdness of staying with strangers.

When we got home, the boys wanted to see their room right away.  They dropped their stuff off.  A few awkward moments while our teens were figuring out how to find common ground.  A quick suggestion of video games solved that.

We purposely have video games for up to 6 or even 8 players, so a large group can all play at the same time (no having to wait for your turn!).  But a few of the remotes had dead batteries, so I made a quick run to the grocery.  Since I was at the store anyway, I picked up syrup for tomorrow’s pancakes.

While I was on my battery run, the pizza came.   We let the kids watch anime while eating.  Then back to video games.

So that’s the first two hours.  And we’re all having fun.

Making Respite in Foster Care Easier

Last night we ran into Helper (13 year old boy) and Excited (7 year old brother).  They stayed with us over the winter holidays (read about it here) and they’ll be staying with us again next month.

Besides just saying hello, I purposely said a few things to help make their upcoming visit easier.  First, I commented on the things I remembered about them from their last stay.  I pointed out the mango to Excited and said, “I bet you’re going to choose the mango, because I remember that you loooove it.”  For Helper, I laughed when looking at his very full plate and said “I’m not surprised to see all that food piled on your plate.  You always were a bottomless pit last time.”  This is a way to let them know you still care enough to know the little things that make them who they are.  It also gave them a chance to share what they remembered.  Excited said “I remember somebody.  Silent One (our adopted son).”  And then I went on to describe what Silent One’s been up to lately and then transitioned to Sassy (our bio daughter).

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I also painted a picture of some of the fun things we plan to do next month.  I asked them if they like to hunt for Easter eggs, because my neighborhood does one.  Then I described how it works, telling them about the giant Easter bunny, that there’s lots of kids, that it’s divided by age, that there’s a special golden egg with a special prize, etc.  Yes, they like to hunt for eggs, and oh they really hope they’ll find the golden egg.  We chatted about whether they’d like to bring their own baskets or use ones that we have.  They said maybe they’d bring their Halloween bags – great idea.  I talked about decorating Easter eggs.

This was all very deliberate.  It will help them look forward to coming and seeing us, and focus less on the separation from their foster parents.  It erases some of the scary unknowns of living temporarily with people they don’t know very well.  It gives a chance to plan for the visit (bring basket? want to participate or not?), which helps them to feel more in control of their lives.

If you have any tips for making respite care easier, please share!

 

 

 

Adopting is off… or not?

Last time I blogged about this crazy situation which led us to consider adopting a teen from foster care who is waiting to be adopted.  So, what did we decide?

The teen girl we were considering adopting is being adopted by her current foster mom.  Yay!  Because that young lady and her soon-to-be forever mom will make a great family.

But I have to confess something embarrassing.

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The AdoptUSkids profile was actually of another child.  Who didn’t have a family yet.  Which led us to soul searching about whether or not to consider adopting her.

Hubby and I did not reach the same conclusions.  Yikes!

My thoughts were that we saw her photo and description and wanted her.  Surely we could at least learn more about her.  Maybe this was meant to be.

My husband was more comfortable with re-opening our home for regular foster care next month and, if those kids placed with us end up needing a new family, we’d be able to decide based off knowing who they are and how they fit into our existing family.

When it comes to adding a new family member, everyone needs to be onboard.  So, no to adopting that young teen.

And yes, to being open to adopting some unknown child(ren) of unspecified ages, gender, backgrounds at some possible point in the future.