Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eight Things Foster Parents Are Required To Have That Really Any Parents Should Have

1. Fire extinguisher
Foster parents are required to have a fire extinguisher in the home and have it inspected annually.  If a home is two stories, there must be one on each floor.   You don't have to be a parent for this one or the next two to apply, simply a homeowner.  Be careful of small fire extinguishers that can be purchased at home improvement stores.  We had one of those and when I took it to an actual fire and security business to get it inspected and tagged, they pointed out to me that it had already lost all pressure and would have been completely useless if we had needed it.  In fact, he told me, you may be buying one off the shelf that has already lost its pressure and is a dud.  That's pretty dumb.  Go ahead and spend the $60 or so to get the high quality extinguisher that you know you can rely on if you need it.

2. Smoke detectors
CPS requires foster homes to have a working smoke detector in every bedroom and hallway.  Let's be honest.  How many have we taken low batteries out of to get them to quit chirping at us and never put new ones back in, rendering them useless?  Newer built homes often have smoke detectors hard wired in to the home's electrical system and in all the right places, but if your house is older, might give them a look and buy some new batteries.  

3. Carbon monoxide detector
This only applies if you have gas appliances and/or a gas furnace.  It serves the same purpose as a smoke detector, except it picks up carbon monoxide to alert you to even the slightest gas leak.  We got one for $20 at a home improvement store that plugs into an outlet so we don't even have to mess with batteries.

4. CPR training
If your child started choking, would you know what to do?  If they had a severe allergic reaction and their body shut down?  Perhaps you have indeed had CPR training, but did it include training on infants and children?  There are different ways to respond in these scary situations depending on the age of the victim, so I believe it's very important for all parents to have CPR and First Aid training that includes infants and children.   Hospitals sometimes offer classes, community colleges may have continuing education programs, local Red Cross and even individual instructors who can come to your home to train you.

5. Escape plan
The fire department's inspection of a foster home includes making sure every room has an escape route to the outside, via door or window, or is directly attached to a room with an exit.  We also have to draw our floor plan and mark said exits on it.  An added level of this plan is to have an actual escape plan and meeting point outside the home.  If your home was on fire and you had to get out, could you actually get out of each room?  Does your family have a designated meeting point outside the home to count heads and know that if someone is missing, it's not because they happen to be safe, but on the other side of the house?  Have you coached your children, if old enough to understand, on what to do in case of a fire, what to do, where to go?  It's a scary subject to talk about, but should be talked about.

6. Medicine safety
Foster parents are required to have all medicines under lock and key, so we added a lock to one of our bathroom cabinets.  While non-foster parents may not feel the need to go to this extreme, they should at least keep all medicine well out of reach of children and safely contained.  We are also required to discard leftover medicine immediately after doses are complete (ex: your child finishes ten days of amoxicillin but there is still some left in the bottle), so there isn't unneeded or expired medicine hanging around.

7. Gun safety
If foster parents have any firearms in the home, they must be locked up in a safe, unloaded, and ammunition locked up separately.  We added a trigger lock for good measure, even though it's not required, and the keys to all are stored safely in our home.  This sure renders our shotgun pretty useless for home defense, but consider that if you can get to your firearms easily for home defense, your child can also likely get to them.  This could lead to an accident that could take the life of your child or others.  It has happened.  Why do you think CPS has such strict rules about it? And if you have coached your own children on gun safety, please consider that someone else's child visiting your home may not have the same knowledge or understanding.  We Texans are especially, uh, attached to our firearms.  But smart.

8. Behavioral Intervention training
Raise your hand if you received some kind of schooling, training or other equipping before you embarked on your current career. Now raise your hand if you have kids and have ever attended a parenting class.  Anybody?  Most parents set out boldly into parenthood with hardly a clue what they are doing.   And most of those parents muddle through and do fine.  But why not take advantage of some resources out there to enhance your parenting, make you feel that you have a plan, that you and your partner are united in your parenting approach, that people smarter than you have given you a tool box to pull from?   Foster parents are required to attend Behavioral Intervention training annually.  This topic deals with psychological development of children at various ages, how to connect with your child, different discipline and reward systems that could be used, the effect that trauma or certain life events can have on the child's development and behavior, etc.     A starting point for this topic that I would recommend is Karyn Purvis' book, The Connected Child, as well as her programs and resources out of Texas Christian University.

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