Before we even started our foster parent classes, I had already searched the internet with a fine tooth comb, looking for ways to prepare for our Home Study. I could not find a really good list, all in one place, that would help me to get my house in order. I say ‘in order’ because I wanted to make sure that I crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’. I knew that there were things that wouldn’t cross my mind, things that most people do not think of. The list that I have compiled actually comes from many different lists from several different states. Everything on this list is designed to prevent or protect a child…..and you can be sure that if it is on these lists, something has happened to make it necessary to be on a safety check-list.
Let me be clear…..this list is not an official ‘Foster Care Home Study List’. Nor must you do everything on this list or you will not be approved. My family just decided to be extremely prepared, so as not to hold up the process….we were that excited! At our Home Study, our social worker was very surprised at how well prepared we were. She only needed to tell us to straighten up our wood pile, but I have included that in the list now, so no worries. But, remember, your state could have just one thing extra that is not on this list…so don’t be discouraged if you have one or two things left to do, even if you followed this list to the letter. So, without further ado, here is the list that you can print off and check off as you prepare.
Outside in the Yard:
_______Hot Tubs, ponds, or wading pools, if applicable, has a lockable cover or is surrounded by a five (5) foot fence with a lockable gate and is only used by children with adult supervision.
_______Above ground swimming pools must have a removable ladder that is removed when the pool is not in use, or a barricade preventing access to the pool.
_______Swimming pool at the home, condo, apartment complex or sub-division, is fenced with at least a five (5) foot high fence with a lockable gate. If a lockable cover is used, it has to support the weight of an adult. The lock is no more that six (6) inches from the top of the gate. Toxic pool maintenance products are kept in locked storage. Life preservers must be readily accessible and the area must be kept free of glass, sharp objects and debris.
_______Fence, if applicable, is in good condition with no broken parts, sharp edges, or points.
_______Yard is free of debris, spare auto parts, appliances, scrap metal, etc. Non-operational vehicles are kept locked, repaired promptly or towed off the premises.
_______Wood piles must be stacked neatly and in a one location.
_______Swing sets, play houses, sand boxes, slides, and other children’s play equipment must be in good working order with no splits, cracks, tears, sharp edges, splintering, points, etc.
_______Sheds that house lawn equipment, pesticides, gasoline, poisonous substances, etc., must have a working door that remains locked.
_______All poisonous and combustible materials must be stored away from food items and lock up at all times. These items include, but are not limited to, paint thinner, glue, paint, oil, gasoline, washes, chemical cleaners, disinfectants, insecticides, etc.
_______There is a trash can with lid.
_______Old appliances not in use that are stored on the premises are kept chained shut, lock, or have the doors removed.
_______Garage is uncluttered. If used for storage, items are stored in a safe manner with no loose materials left lying around. Boxes and cartons must be stacked safely so as not to fall over.
_______Garage door to outside, and if it is an attached garage, the door to the house, remains locked at all times.
_______If washer and dryer is housed in the garage, they are free from clutter and are in good working order.
_______Power tools and equipment are stored safely and are inaccessible to children.
_______Garage is well lit.
_______Floors are swept and uncluttered.
_______If vehicles are parked inside the garage, there must be adequate walk way space around the vehicle to the entry and exit doors.
_______All cabinets that house chemical cleaners or anything dangerous or hazardous to children must be locked or have safety latches in place on cabinet doors.
_______Refrigerator and freezer are in good working order, maintain appropriate temperatures to prevent food spoilage, and are clean.
_______Counter tops, sinks, and work areas are clean, sanitary and in good repair.
_______Stove/oven are free of grease and grime and operate properly.
_______Dishwasher, if applicable, is working properly at appropriate water temperatures assuring sanitation.
_______Cooking and eating utensils are in good condition. Adequate place settings and seating in dining area for all household members to eat together.
_______Sufficient kitchen area for food storage and preparation according to the family’s size.
_______Home canned foods are processed in accordance with UCAES standards.
_______All food that has been prepared or opened (cans) are stored in airtight containers at appropriate temperatures.
_______Alcohol (beer, wine, liquors) are stored in a locked cabinet.
_______Sharp tools such as scissors, knives, etc. are stored in a place inaccessible to children.
_______Matches or lighters are stored in a place inaccessible to children.
_______One week supply of perishables and two weeks supply of staples.dry food on hand, and adequate space to store food. Fresh fruit, fruit juices, and milk are always available.
_______Floors are swept and free of food and dirt.
_______All medicines are in a locked box, inaccessible to children.
_______First Aid kit is complete and stored in a conveniently reachable place. First Aid kit should contain:
___band-aids in various sizes
___health care gloves (latex free)
___triple antibiotic ointment
___allergy Medicine (such as Benedryl)
___children’s pain reliever/fever reducer (small bottle so you do not waste due to expiration dates)
___heating pad or hot water bottle
___teething gel (if you will accept infant/toddler foster children)
___first aid guide
___anything else that the American Red Cross suggests to put into your home first aid kit.
_______Sinks, tubs, shower heads, faucets, and toilets are all clean, clear of mold and mildew, and in working order. No chipped tiles, or anything cracked or sharp.
_______Electrical appliances are not used or stored around sink or bathing areas (this includes curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, curlers, etc.)
_______Have enough towels and wash clothes for each member of the family.
_______Non-skid mat on bath tub floor, if floor is slick.
_______Trash can in place.
_______No more than two children per bedroom (this may be different in different states and within different local agencies. Always check before purchasing furniture, etc.)
_______Children five (5) years and older must share a room with a child of the same gender.
_______Children two years and older cannot share a room with an adult.
_______The upper bed of a bunk bed must have a safety railing. Ladder must be of sound construction. Children under the age of five (5) may not sleep on the top bunk.
_______All mattress’s and pillows must be in good repair.
_______Sheets should be clean and in good repair.
_______Adequate blankets and comforters should be provided.
_______No more that one infant may be placed in the master bedroom with parents.
_______No room commonly used for other purposes can be used as a bedroom and a bedroom cannot be a passage way to another room.
_______A clothing inventory form will be completed prior to placement. (Clothing Vouchers are sometimes given when a child is placed in your care, especially if the child does not have clothing with them. Clothing Vouchers are also given twice annually in my state, one in the spring and one in the fall. It is important for you to keep a list of the clothes and shoes that you purchased with these vouchers and a list of the clothes and shoes that you acquired in that particular size before the child was placed with you. That way, if the child is later placed with relatives, returned home to their parents, or adopted, you know which clothes to send home with them. You may only keep clothing that you purchased or acquired yourself).
_______A land-line phone may be required in certain states or local agencies, and a cell phone may be sufficient in others. Best to check. We have both to be on the safe side.
_______All firearms (certain types of weapons are banned, so check with your local agency) must be stored unloaded in a locked cabinet with trigger locks. Ammunition must be locked in a box, separate from the actual weapon and in a different location.
_______Fire extinguishers must be readily available and fully charged. One fire extinguisher per floor is required. The minimum required capacity must be 2A10BC in size.
_______Smoke detectors are working and installed in the following places: every bedroom, living room, kitchen, laundry room, garage, and family room.
_______A Fire Evacuation Plan is posted by all bedrooms and by all doorways (if you need help with this I have a post devoted to fire evacuation plans)
_______Second story fire evacuation ladder. These can be purchased for about $20.00 at Wal-Mart, for a one-time use type of fire evacuation ladder. Keep it in the box by the window that you have deemed your escape window. You just open the window, secure it on the window sill, and throw the ropes down. The one-time use models cannot be practiced with.
______House appears reasonably neat and clutter free.
______Windows have screens in good repair.
______Windows have curtains or shades to provide privacy.
______Windows are intact and can be opened and closed easily.
______Carpets are clean and are in good repair.
______Floors are clean and are in good repair.
______Ceilings, corners, closets, and window frames are free of dirt and cobwebs.
______Electrical switches and receptacles are in good working order.
______Heating is in good working order, well vented, and able to be turned off.
______Heating capable of heating entire house to comfort. If not, what are alternative modes of heating>
______Air conditioning system is operable and in good working order.
______Hot water source is large enough for household needs and area around it is clean.
______Hot water is between 105 and 120 degrees at the faucets.
______Fireplaces, wood stoves, and open faced heaters shall be made inaccessible to children by the use of screens or other barriers.
______Hallways and bedrooms have clear passages, and all rooms including hallways, passages, and outside doorways and walkways have adequate lighting.
______Furniture is free of sharp edges and broken pieces.
______All doors, doorways and screen doors, are in good repair, and can be locked from the inside.
______Flashlights are readily available in case of power failure and batteries are checked regularly (every three months).
______BB guns, paintball guns, and airsoft guns must be locked in a closet or cabinet, away from small children.
______All pets must have a city license and a rabies shot (some agencies might require more shots, so always check).
Tips for further organization and safety:
1. Medicines and cleaning supplies. We have a closet downstairs that we have shelves in. We store all of our cleaning supplies, including dishwasher and dish soap. We also have clear plastic shoe box size containers labeled ‘syrups’ (cough syrups, etc.), ‘pain relievers’, ‘first aid’, ‘daily medicines’, and ‘prescription medicines’. All of our medicines are organized into these boxes on another shelf within the closet. We have installed a lock on the door that is at adult head level. This way, we do not have to lock up any cabinets in the kitchen, as we do not store any type of cleaner, even dish soap in there. It took us a while to get into the habit of going to the closet to get our supplies, but now it is commonplace and we do not have to worry about a child getting into anything that could hurt them. We also do not keep any type of medicines in the bathrooms. We keep a black security style box that has a key lock (which can be purchased at Wal-Mart for about $15.00) which we keep upstairs in our linen closet (locked of course). We have children’s medicines in it, and any duplicate medicines from downstairs that we may need in the middle of the night. This way, it is never a question of safety and always secured and worry-free.
2. Thermometer. If you have a child who has been physically or sexually abused, has spent a considerable time in the hospital or has had numerous doctor’s appointments for that abuse, you may have an issue getting a child’s temperature. Forget an anal temperature, some children may resist you trying to get a reading under their arm or using an ear thermometer. We have such a child, and we found a miracle answer to our prayers! A forehead thermometer that takes a temperature in 2 seconds. You just swipe it over their forehead and wha-la!…your done before they even realized that their temperature was taken. I am sure that most of the young mothers have already heard of and own these new fan-dangled contraptions, but when my kids were little over 13 or 14 years ago, they didn’t have this style!
3. Clothing. As soon as we nailed down the decision to foster, I began the nesting phase. I visited my local thrift stores weekly, until I had acquired five (5) days worth of outfits and shoes for a boy and a girl in various sizes according to the age group of children that we would accept. We also put the word out with our friends about any clothing that anyone was giving away. There is a wardrobe for summer and a wardrobe for winter. I have I store these clothes in cardboard Banker Boxes, then I write the gender and size on the front of the box. I have all of these boxes stored neatly in my garage, off of the floor in case it floods. When I receive a child, I can check the size of the outfit they are wearing when they walk in the door (presuming that it is a good fit and not too big or too small) and go right to that box without any hassle. It may seem that this is overkill, but it is always best to be prepared and these clothes can be used child after child, as you have acquired them yourself. I also want to keep costs down, so I never pay over $1.50 for any one article of clothing, and never more than $3 for a pair of shoes. If you cannot afford to have several sizes with five outfits each, then at least have one outfit in each size, each gender, and for each season. You would be surprised to see what type of disheveled clothing these children show up with. Thrift stores are awesome, most of what I buy is a brand name, and not even Wal-Mart can beat those prices!
Here is a check list so you can put together a week’s wardrobe for a new child:
___(3) sleepers (infant) pajama short sets (if toddler or older)
___(5) onsies (if infant)
___(5) training pants (if toddler is not potty trained)
___(5) underpants (if already potty trained)
___(1) bathing suit
___(1) bathing suit Cover-up (if a girl)
___(5) pairs of white socks
___(5) dresses (if a girl)
___(3) sleepers (if infant) footie pajamas (if toddler), or long sleeve pajamas (if older)
___(5) under shirts
___(5) underpants (can use underpants from summer wardrobe)
___(1) heavy coat
___(1) light jacket
___(1) baby bunting (if infant)
___(1) stocking hat
___(5) long sleeve shirts
___(5) pairs of pants
___(5) dresses (if a girl)
___(2) pairs of tights, one in white and one in black (if a girl)
___(5) pairs of white socks (can use socks from summer wardrobes
___0-3 Months Summer
___0-3 Months Winter
___3-6 Months Summer
___3-6 Months Winter
___6-9 Months Summer
___6-9 Months Winter
___9-12 Months Summer
___9-12 Months Winter
___12 Months Summer
___12 Months Winter
___18 Months Summer
___18 Months Winter
___24 Months Summer
___24 Months Winter
4. Shoes. We purchase a pair of brown shoes and tennis shoes for boys for the winter. We purchase a brown pair and a black pair for girls, but may also purchase something to match dresses for winter. For the summer we purchase a “Croc” style shoe for water activities, and a pair of tennis shoes for the boys. For girls, we purchase sandals in various colors, and tennis shoes.
We only accept children, ages birth to 3 years old, so these sizes are the norm for those ages. You can adjust the sizes according to the age of the children that you are willing to accept.
5. Cribs and toddler beds. All ‘drop-dwon-side- cribs have been recalled. It is best to get the new models if you are willing to accept babies. Sometimes, a voucher can be given from the agency if a crib is needed and you do not have one, but this is not always the case. If you already know that you want an infant, or infants plural, then be prepared to already have that crib(s) in place. Most cribs convert to toddler beds. We have two cribs because we wanted two children, but it didn’t matter what age as long as it was between birth and 3 years old. Our cribs convert to toddler beds if needed.
6. Bed linens. We purchased these in advance as well. We have unisex crib bedding for both cribs, and (1) boy toddler bedding and (1) girl toddler bedding. We also have several baby blankets and receiving blankets for infants, spit-up pads, and burp cloths. If you accept older children, you should have (2) sheet sets, (1) blanket, and (1) comforter per bed (all of these can be purchased at thrift stores).
7. Baby equipment. We got the basics for infants and toddlers. Two high chairs (one that is a regular high chair, and one that is a compact model), a baby swing, a baby bouncer, a rocking horse (its actually a caterpillar), an exercauser, an umbrella stroller, a full size stroller, a Moses basket, a portable playpen, a baby gate, and a baby carrier that you strap onto you like a reverse backpack. If you used something that was a life saver when you had babies, then by all means get it again! If you do not have children yet, the list above will definitely get you started.
8. Bath equipment and toiletries. We got the basics again for infants and toddlers. A baby bathtub, a baby seat that goes into a regular tub, bath toys, a Frog thing that sticks to the bathtub wall and holds all of the bath toys so that they can drain and not collect mildew, two training potties, one for upstairs and one for downstairs and a baby grooming set that includes a hairbrush, comb, nail clippers, etc. We also purchased (1) baby shampoo, (1) baby wash, (1) hair detangler, (2) child-size tooth brushes, and (1) child’s toothpaste. If you are accepting older children, then it would be (2) regular toothbrushes, (1) hairbrush, (1) comb, (1) nail clippers, (1) kids or regular shampoo, (1) kids or regular conditioner, (1) hair detangler, and (1) body wash.
9. Bath linens. We purchased baby towels, and I make my own washcloths with old flannel baby receiving blankets. Otherwise, have two towels and two washcloths per family member.
10. Diapering and toilet training. We use cloth diapers (I have a post on this if you want to try it out and save a ton of money). However, for visits with their biological families, it is best to put babies and not-yet-toilet-trained-toddlers in disposable diapers. I have 20 sets of cloth diapers for my own use while they are at home with me, and one (1) small package of each size of diapers. The sizes for diapers are newborn, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and then pull-ups. We do not use pull-ups for potty training while at home, because they feel just like diapers to the child. We use thicker potty training pants, regular underwear, and plastic pants over top of the underpants. However, when they go on visits, we send them in pull-ups. Maker sure to get a diaper bag and check out my blog about visitations to learn what to pack when your foster child goes to see their family.
11. Toys. We purchased baby and toddler toys such as rattles, teething rings, a few stuffed animals, stacking rings, a little piano, Weeble Wobble houses, blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls, etc. Yes, I went completely overboard, but after we finally got our first foster child, I am so happy that I did. Everyone thinks that they will just ‘get it when the child gets here’. However, if you do not do it slowly over several months, it will hurt the pocket book all at once. If you cannot afford to buy it all at once, then the child suffers for toys and necessities once he gets to your home because you are not prepared for him or her. If you pre-plan before the child gets to you, you can slowly get things at a price that you can afford. If you wait until they are with you, there is more pressure to get certain items, and you cannot always get the best price. Again, never buy new toys….ever. For example, a Weeble Wooble house, with 2 Weeble Woobles runs about $35.00 at Wal-Mart. I picked one up at a thrift store for $3.00. I just brought it home, sprayed it all over with Lysol and wiped it down good.
12. Books. Reading to children is one of my favorite past times. I will repeat, never purchase new. Most thrift stores sell children’s books from $.25 to $1.00. Pick up just a few for the first few bedtimes with your new foster child, or a whole library because you are absolutely obsessed with books like I am!
13. Feeding Equipment. If you are accepting older children, just make sure that everyone in the family has a plate, bowl, cup, glass, and eating utensils. If you are accepting infants and toddlers, you must purchase bottles, baby spoons, pacifiers, sippy cups, plastic toddler plates and bowls, and toddler utensils (not completely necessary but sometimes helpful depending on the child). I purchased Avent bottles on Ebay because they are very well made and will last for many babies. They are very expensive at $17 for 3 bottles at Walmart, however, I was able to pick up 10 bottles from a lady off of craigslist for $20, and the same amount of bottles for close to that price off of an Ebay auction. I purchased the same brand of sippy cups and pacifiers, again because they are well made. Those are pricey as well, so back to craigslist and ebay. You can pick up toddler plates and things easily enough at thrift stores in like new condition. Every now and again you can find a good bottle or sippy cup at a thrift store, but not often enough to build a good collection. I have only seen pacifiers once, and I was lucky enough to get a package of them brand new, but it was so rare. You could try yard sales too.
14. Formula and Baby Food. I did get formula in several different brands and types (there are may different types, from fussy to advanced), because I did not want to have to rush to the store if an infant came to my door. You can get tons of coupons if you register online with Similac and Enfamil. They even send you free cans of formula, so I actually only purchased one can of the six cans that I have! I will donate the formula if it is not used closer to the expiration date (they usually have a 2 year shelf life). I do not purchase baby food in advance, due to expiration dates, and I also purchased a cookbook on how to make your own baby food. Baby food, price per ounce, is extremely expensive compared to making it yourself. It is not hard either!
15. Car seats. We got an infant carrier type that clicks into a base. That way the base stays in the car strapped in, and the baby stays strapped into the carrier. We also purchased a bigger car seat for a baby and toddler.
Well, that’s all the things that I did before we were even approved as foster parents! Our social worker thought we were crazy, because after all, you are reimbursed monthly, but it is not nearly enough to buy everything that you need if you buy new. I was really happy that I planned ahead with my thrifty second-hand shopping when we received our first foster care child placement. We received (2) vouchers upon his arrival, one for clothing and one for baby equipment. I was only able to purchase (5) outfits, (4) pairs of shoes, (2) packages of socks, a baby gate, a step stool for the bathroom, a package of bath squirters, swimmie diapers, a swimsuit, and diapers (remember, I only pre-buy a small package of each size diaper). Wow, that did not even touch the surface of taking care of an infant or toddler. So, see? Pre-plan, buy used, never be so un-prepared that you are forced to over spend on something because it is now an immediate necessity, and you will never feel the financial pinch of having a foster child join your family! You will also be completely ready, not only for your Home Study, but for anything that crops up once your foster children arrive. If God leads you to it, he will lead you through it, and will always provide what you need.