Before we accepted placement we tried to get prepared. Granted, we had two days from the referral call so mainly we had time to get our house ready. But before that point we had tried to be fully prepared physically, in our home as well as mentally. Again, we had placement only days after our official approval but we still tried. That’s half the battle, right? Here are a few things that have helped us so far with our placement of a sibling group of three!
Toothbrushes: even if they come with them, you don’t know the condition and may not be able to find them. Our kids badly needed some new ones. The ones they came with were packed in with their clothes and I didn’t find them until I was doing inventory on their things almost a week later.
Flashlights/nightlights: our kids are so afraid of the dark. Each bedroom and their bathroom have several nightlights and each kid sleeps with his/her own flashlights/small lantern. We actually let them pick these out the first week they arrived (Walmart seemed to have a good selection and most came with their own batteries, score!). I also make sure to pack these every time we are away from home.
Paper products: I promise that I am environmentally friendly. But the first week the last thing I needed to do was a bunch of dishes. I have to do a load of dishes a day without paper products. Paper plates, bowls and plastic silverware were so helpful.
Car seats/booster seats: two out of the three new kids are still in boosters for the car. I purchased one before they arrived and they brought one with them. I would make sure you have these ready after your referral call. We didn’t start splitting the kids up for errands until about a month at home with us so I would plan on taking them to a lot of appointments, especially in the beginning.
Books: we did our best to have a few books prepared for the age group that we were accepting. Most of our kids are behind their grade level so we should have focused on a wider breadth than we thought. Once you know the age group or actual age of kids I definitely recommend finding a thrift store or used books store to stock up. We also hit the library each week in the summer but our library did not have a lot of the easy reading books. This is a great family activity and something we use every night to establish a routine with our kids and work on attachment as well.
Arts/crafts: When our kids were placed they were so accustomed to following older kids’ ideas when playing that they had a hard time thinking up a game/activity and acting it out. Especially all together. In the beginning we did a lot of arts and crafts. We could talk about anything they wanted as we colored, painted, drew or did beads. They felt accomplished when they were finished with each task. I raided the dollar aisle at Target, AC Moore (craft store) and of course the dollar store. We used pom poms, popsicle sticks, beads, markers and crayons, colored paper, small wooden or foam crafts, etc. These were a lifesaver for us and I really learned a lot about them as we did these crafts.
Organization: plans in place for every mundane detail, including showers/baths. Doesn’t matter if it changes in a week. But you need a plan to tackle things with extra children. I guess this one is big for those fostering/adopting sibling groups. Our plans included who will run bath time/showering? How will meals work? Will you do family/buffet style in the middle of the table or dress each plate and give it to each child? Who gets the kids ready for school? Who goes to sports/activities with kids?
Rules: make a set of rules with your partner. You may need to add some or become flexible on some depending on your kid(s) and their past. Each home is different but our rules include basics like no running inside, keep your hands (and feet) to yourself, treat everyone with kindness, use inside voices in the house, sit at the table until everyone is done eating, share chores, no back talk, no leaving the house without permission, and extra ones like don’t wake other children at night, give privacy when in the bathroom or dressing, do not close bedroom doors.
As I think of more things I will update this list and add to the bottom. After only two months it’s hard to be completely retrospective!
ED: Food! Our kids have pretty major food insecurities. When they first had placement they ate three square meals a day plus three major snacks a day. Now they eat three meals and one snack when they get home from school. But it just takes time. I bought bulk in things like NutriGrain bars, granola bars, those awesome applesauce pouches, trail mix, string cheese, fruit (apples, bananas, grapes) and peanut butter crackers. We have a low cabinet in the kitchen where I keep all of their snack food. Nothing was off limits the first couple of weeks until they saw that they would be fed routinely. Now they know what time snack is in the afternoon and will get it for themselves. We ordered pizza the first night of placement and I made side salads. The next couple nights I kept dinners really simple and low key, like sloppy joe’s, hamburgers/hot dogs, tacos, grilled cheese and soup, and I ventured out and also made Hawaiian chicken (baked skinless boneless chicken in marinade). Once I figured out that they would eat anything I put in front of them, I branched out and made more complex foods. I am big on eating real food and keeping food dyes, preservatives and excess sugar out of the diets. The first week or so, I threw that out the window to keep the kids comfortable. Two months in, they are fine with my regular way of cooking and I can see how good their behavior is after eating real food versus junk food.