Preparing for An Arrival

trash bags full of clothing

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

You’ve taken the classes.  You’ve been fingerprinted, interviewed, reference-checked.  You’ve watched the “Removed” movie fourteen times.  You’ve read blogs and are part of foster parent support groups on social media.  Your agency calls you and says, “Congratulations, your home has been approved.  You are open to provide foster care!  We will call you when we have a match,” and they hang up the phone.

Now what?

New parents, seasoned parents, it makes no difference.  Welcoming a stranger into your home, which is exactly what foster parents do every day, is scary.  You want to help them, but do you have what they need?  How will you be prepared?

The emotional piece is its own category, but what about just having some physical goods on hand for a placement- what do you need?  Here are some things to keep on hand (or stock up on if you hit a great sale).  Feeling prepared makes everyone relax a little bit more, so I reached out to some of our seasoned foster parents and developed this list.  A big thank you to Miss S, Miss N, and Miss E for their expertise!  To our gentle readers, we hope this helps!

If you have space in your home, using totes to store supplies is very handy.  If you don’t maybe a large ziplock bag of some basics will be helpful.  Think about your life, what works for you, and go from there!

  • From all polled foster parents/pre-adoptive parents: You will not have everything. There will be a trip to the store.  Breathe, accept it, and delegate responsibilities if you have a support system of people.  You know that friend who said “If there’s every anything I can do, let me know!”?  Now is the time to call her and say “Can you run by the store and grab size 3 diapers?  I’ll pay you back!”
  • Stash yourself some giftcards to helpful places: grocery store, department store, discount club so you don’t feel a financial pinch when trying to outfit/feed this new person. You know those people who said “What can I get you?”  GIFT CARDS is your enthusiastic answer
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, and combs
  • Hair care products for a variety of hair textures, hypoallergenic body wash and lotions, “poufs”, hypoallergenic laundry detergent
  • Deodorant, feminine hygiene products, and razors (if you hope to parent big kiddos)
  • Diapers in a variety of sizes, hypoallergenic wipes, diaper cream, sippy cups, bottles and various nipples, a car seat, and a safe, new crib that meets the standards of care (if you will be parenting littles)
  • Non-latex gloves and a well-stocked first aid kit
  • Waterproof, bedbug resistant mattress and pillow covers for the bed a child will use. This goes for all ages of children you will parent. PRO TIP: You might want to get covers for ALL mattresses and pillows in the home.  Bedbugs do not discriminate.
  • A nightlight for the child’s room, regardless of his or her age. Just put it in there and they can use it if it helps them feel safe.  Maybe add one to the hall and bathroom, just to help a child feel that more secure.
  • Underwear, pajamas, socks, and other clothing basics in a variety of sizes. Again, if you have room for totes, they might be helpful.  If not, maybe a few size options in the child’s bedroom closet.  The reality is, you may end up running to Walmart late/early to grab these things, but it’s nice if you can save yourself the trip. 
  • Winter weather accessories, like mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, boots, and jackets are great to have on hand. Start small (mittens and hats).
  • Some easy, universally liked foods and snacks appropriate for the age of child you will be parenting. Asking “What do you like to eat?” is a huge relief to kids who are new to your home.  Food is fundamental to feeling cared for and safe.  Never underestimate the power of mac and cheese!
  • Soft, clean, freshly washed blankets, towels, and sheets. They are literally comfort items.  If your sheets are threadbare, your pillows are flat, and the comforter looks dingy, a child is going to feel that reflects their worth and the way you will care for them. 
  • Bonus points-It doesn’t hurt to have two comforters or sets of sheets on hand in different color schemes- giving choice when possible is very restorative and empowering.
  • School supplies for the age of child you will parent- Our program maintains a pretty comprehensive stock of school supplies, but your agency might not have that luxury. If you can grab a few notebooks, pens, backpacks, and binders, you will be setting your child up for success.  They often have not had the opportunity to grab their belongings before being removed. 
  • Lunch bags- If you make everyone’s lunch for school, be prepared for your new person’s arrival. Some kiddos get school lunch, but if you make them, be ready to add this person to the lineup with a lunch bag, freezer packs, and proper containers for food.  A nice note on the first day doesn’t hurt, either!
  • Fun Stuff- If you don’t have any child-friendly fun stuff, get something in advance. A game you can play together, a puzzle, coloring books and colored pencils, dolls representing a variety of ethnicities, Legos...Play helps regulate children’s minds, lets them step away from the whirling world around them, and lets them know they are welcome in your home.  Don’t assume a child will be too old to play.  Kids of all ages (yup, even teens) appreciate that grace to be a child. 
  • A stuffed animal the child can keep as his or her own. There is a no age limit on this.  Children of all ages (and adults, too, for that matter) take comfort in floppy rabbits, plush bears, and squishy pups. 
  • Spare duffel bags for a child to put his or her belongings in when they leave your home. They might come in with trash bags, but they should not leave with trash bags.

Don’t be overwhelmed.  You don’t need everything on this list and every child is different.  If putting together a few items makes you feel better, though, these are the recommendations that our amazing foster parents suggest.  If we missed something, please add it in the comments!

#FosterHopeFosterCare #BePrepared #Wishlist #FosterParentBabyShower #StepataTime


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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.