With all the paperwork we’re handed left and right as foster parents, it can be overwhelming trying to find the right place for it all! It can be a hassle not to mix up papers between kids, and even worse to lose important documents! With our very first placement, we tried the best we could to prepare, have everything we needed, and stay organized. As helpful as foster parent training classes were at giving us some tools and insights into what we could prepare for, some things you just don’t know until you’re in it!
We created a foster care organization binder to help make sense of everything we were handed. You can learn more about putting together a foster care organization binder here, but this post is about giving you an inside look into what’s included in our printable organization binder sets, and why we chose these specific pages to include in the set. We are going to do our best to give you some great ideas on how you can use the pages included in this set. Please note that your agency, or state, may have different guidelines or requirements for documentation. We are simply here to share what has worked with us, in our home, under the guidelines we follow.*
Fair warning: this is a lengthy post, so grab your cup of coffee, or your Ningxia! If you feel exhausted from trying to figure out what you will need to keep your child’s information organized, or perhaps you stopped by our Etsy Shop and just want to know what’s included in your organization set purchase, we pray this article will be helpful and take some of the guesswork out of foster care organization for you. Be sure to keep this post bookmarked so you can come back whenever you need to!
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So let’s get started with one of the best features of these printable organization sets: the cuteness factor!
Let’s be honest, when you search the internet and Pinterest for some practical AND pretty organization systems for foster care, it’s just not easy to find BOTH. Each printable set we offer has a variety of binder cover pages that you can slip into the protector sheet on the outside of the binder. We chose to include several options for two reasons:
1. So you can chose what fits your (or your child’s) style best, and
2. You can easily distinguish between separate binders you may have for each child based on the cover page you chose for that child.
You will notice that on the Foster Care Organization sets we do not include a section for you to write the child’s name on the cover sheets. While most covers still have room to add a name should you chose to, we opted out of this customization feature for security purposes.
We take our binders to almost every meeting, doctor visit, therapy session, court hearing or any other appointment the child may have, and we also take these binders with us when we travel, should anything come up. Having a child’s name on the outside of the binder might not be in the best interest of your child’s confidentiality, and quite honestly might just make you feel uncomfortable if anyone recognizes your foster child’s name while you’re out and about. In efforts to protect our littles the best we can, we leave their names off of the outside of the binders. Though, if it is more helpful to you, we have seen some customers put a child’s initials on their binder covers for an added touch of customization and for easy distinguishing between binders.
These binders also include some binder spine labels. If you’re like me and you have the perfect spot for your binders on your desk or on a shelf, next to other binders, notebooks, and such, you want to be able to grab the correct binder in a pinch. You can choose between three different binder spine labels, in three different sizes, to slide into the protective spine cover. The size of binder you choose is really up to you and your needs – whether your child comes with a lot, or very little… whether you choose to store every child’s information in one large binder, or have separate smaller binders set aside for each child.
One of the things that I LOVE about this set, and that I needed to keep from going crazy when considering new placements, is the questionnaire sheets.
Picture this… you just got licensed, or are finally ready to open your home for a new placement, and you are anxiously awaiting a phone call for someone to let you know there is a precious child waiting for a loving home. You get this call and, with all the excitement and fear of the unknown filling your body with adrenaline, you forget all of the questions you wanted – NEEDED – to make sure you asked before accepting placement. You panic, and out of the goodness of your heart might feel guilted into saying yes, or out of fear say no and turn down what could have been a great match for that child and your family. Maybe you have a list of questions that you left at home or vanished in your purse, or wrote down on a napkin that one time at lunch, or is lost somewhere in your phone notes…. And you’re not sure if you’ve thought of all of the important details and non-negotiables you need more information on. Many of those questions can be right at your fingertips… flipping to the questionnaire page in your nicely organized binder!
Be ready when you get that call… and when you get all the calls that may come after that call before a child is finally placed with you. Before our first placement, we had said “yes!” to about seven different children and NEVER heard back on them. And can I tell you not one time was I prepared with the questions I REALLY wanted to make sure I asked before accepting placement. There were times I would be driving home from work in rush hour traffic and pulled over to the side of the road when I received phone calls from social workers. With the busyness of cars all around me on the freeway, trying to unwind from the work day, and, remember, adrenaline pumping through my veins with the thought “Here we go!!!!’ running through my mind, I scrambled to find a pen and a napkin or an envelope of unopened mail to write down answers to whatever questions I could think of to ask on the spot. I would end the phone with a quick, “Let me give my husband a call to inform him on this possibility and I will call you right back,” only to call my husband and have no answers to pretty simple questions we had both thought of countless times before. It may seem like a little thing, or may not be important to some of you, but it was tough to feel like we were doing the right thing or that we were ready for this.
Let me tell you, being prepared gives you a whole new level of confidence to follow through on what you are called to do. You are less likely to make up an excuse or back out when you know you’ve been preparing for this very moment.
The pre-placement questionnaire is great to have on hand while awaiting a placement call, and there is also a time-of-placement questionnaire sheet with the questions that are appropriate to ask about a child upon receiving placement. This is great to have at the front of your binder waiting with you to meet your new child and receive whatever paperwork and contact cards that may (or may not!) come with them.
Now, let’s break the binder down into sections! Again, you can visit our blog post about putting together a foster care organization binder here to find tips on how to separate sections in your binder.
1. CONTACT INFORMATION
This is where you can store business cards and contact information for professionals who are working with you and your child on their case. You can also log contact the child has with biological family or any other people of importance. This may include caseworkers, agencies, transportation social workers, parent aides, GALs, CASAs, Birth Parents, Siblings, Extended Family, Babysitters, Former Foster Placements, Doctors, Therapists, Principals, and anyone else you may think to include.
- There is a Basic Info sheet where you can list out any known allergies and medications the child is taking.
- The Contact Info sheet is where you write down contact information such as names, phone numbers, addresses and email addresses for professionals you may need to reach out to during the length of your child’s stay.
- The Contact Log is perfect for tracking any contact the child has with biological parents and relatives. You can list the date, name of the person the child has contact with, what type of contact it was (visit, call, letter, email, gift, etc.), and how the child responded to this interaction.
- And last but not least, you have your Emergency Contact sheet. Our agency requires that we fill out their emergency contact sheet and keep it posted somewhere visible in the home, along with our emergency evacuation plan and map (which we are required to draw on the pages given to us by the state). This page is for YOU to have and keep with you. This emergency contact sheet outlines:
- Emergency Numbers (Non-Emergency Police Number, Poison Control, Nearest Hospital, Doctor, Dentist, Pharmacy and Insurance Information)
- Family Contact Numbers – contact info for you and your spouse, children in the home, your address, and two emergency contacts for the child. Again, this is something for YOU to have in YOUR records, and possibly for copying to give to the child’s caseworker. Since this page includes your personal contact information on it, I would not recommend sharing this page with a child’s bio family or anyone who might not be careful with this sensitive information, unless you feel comfortable doing so.
This is where you can keep documents, letters, pictures and other items sent home during visitations and such. You can also choose to keep contact logs here instead of in the previous section mentioned. You may find it helpful to store letters, cards, pictures and other sentimental items in page protectors to keep these items safe and from being damaged while in your care. Depending on your child’s case needs, you may also choose to keep lined paper here for journaling notes about the child’s visitations and how they responded after visits. You can also keep a thumb drive or photo page protector sheets here to keep a record of your child’s “before visitation” and “after visitation” photos if your child’s case warrants that level of documentation. In some situations you can never have too much documentation.
3. COURT HEARINGS
In this section, you can place important information from court hearings such as notes you took during court, the minutes recorded from the court hearing, the findings during Foster Care Review Board minutes, and like items.
4. IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
This is where page protectors will become your best friend! We included a cute template for you to track an overview of your child’s life timeline. In this section, you can store your child’s notice to provider, birth certificates, social security cards, medical cards, immunization records, and adoption decrees (should your child’s case go in that direction.)
One helpful piece of advice I have with notice to providers: make copies! Every medical office you enter will need a copy of this document for their records. I make about 5 or 10 copies and keep the original in my binder (yes, in a page protector). I keep the copies in my binder, in my car, in the diaper bag, in our carry-on luggage or anywhere else I may have to show my ID and prove this kid belongs with me. I have even heard of some foster parents scanning a copy onto their computer and keeping it on their flash drive, and also sent to themselves in an email so they ALWAYS have it on them. Needless to say, this will be ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS you receive with your placement… and may sure you do, in fact, receive one. (Remember, your state may refer to this as something different, so be sure to ask your social worker about this information.)
What foster parent doesn’t run off of a calendar? This section is just as you would expect: calendar pages! We have included fun calendar layouts of every month of the year. There are no set dates or years on the calendars, so you may continue to use these over several years when you print multiple copies. You can use these calendar sheets to track appointments and events in your child’s life, and/or incidents, behaviors, mood swings, and triggers to begin tracking patterns in your child’s life.
At the end of this section is also a Monthly Foster Care Report template to give you and your child’s caseworker a quick overview of the appointments, visitations, and other pertinent information, that happened from one caseworker’s home visit to the next.
6. MEDICAL AND PSYCHIATRIC
This binder section is a great place to keep contact information for doctors, dentists, therapists and other specialists. You may also keep copies of physicals, doctor notes, dental records, list of known allergies, and pamphlets that come with medications from the pharmacy. You may also choose this as an alternative location to keep your child’s immunization records.
Use this space to store psychiatric evaluations, behavior evaluations, intake records, progress records, discharge records, in-patient/out-patient treatment center paperwork, residential facility records, and anything else you can think of!
In this section, we have included logs to help you track doctor or therapy appointments, and medications your child is taking. You will also find template sheets to record current treatment plans and past treatment plans. These sheets are great to make copies of and hand out to new medical professionals that join your child’s team. This is the best way to make sure each medical professional is aware of all medications that child is taking, has taken, and how it effected the child. Of course, as foster parents we are rarely given an extensive look at the child’s medical history prior to being in our care, but the more you know and have recorded in one place, the better!
And last, but not least, we have included an incident report form to fill out for bruises, scrapes and bumps that might not warrant a formal incident report from the state or your agency, but is still something you want documented. This form walks you through important information to document and also recommends attaching photos of the injury if needed. Please remember to talk with your licensing or social work if you need a second opinion on injuries and situations that you feel should be documented more formally.
7. BEHAVIOR AND SAFETY PLAN
This! This section is filled with printable goodies to help you and your kids stay on track. Behind this divider tab, you can keep copies of documents from behavioral health providers and therapists, along with the printables that are included in this section.
Daily logs and weekly logs are available depending on how in-depth you are wanting to track and take notes of behaviors and what is happening in your child’s life. Multiple copies can be printed and stored all in one place behind this section divider. You also have a variety of behavior charts included to print. Depending on your child’s age and understanding, you can use a behavior chart with a behavior gauge (using clothespins or something similar) or a sticker and reward chart.
With our toddler we love the idea of using a sticker chart with a surprise reward after 50 stickers. Depending on the behavior we are wanting to focus on, he gets rewarded with star stickers or fun stickers he’s interested in at the time. The reward he will be given is not set and is often a surprise for him. Every now and then the reward may be something super fun like a trip for frozen yogurt with daddy or a toy he’s been wanting, or something as simple as a temporary tattoo or small candy. Again, it all depends on the behavior we are spending a majority of the time focusing on and how much effort we know it takes for him to work on improving that behavior. Something simple like remembering good manners might earn him something small and very inexpensive, whereas earning stickers for exhibiting self-control in moments he would normally be exhibiting aggressive behaviors, or seeing him put forth effort to calm and practice self-regulation may warrant a bigger surprise. We often follow his lead to choose which behaviors we are going to focus on, when to switch to a new behavior or to add a new behavior to the list, and for a gauge on how far to push him knowing what he can handle and how much we believe he can be challenged. Stickers are a great visual for kids and these charts a great go-to!
Included in this section are inventory forms. Upon receiving placement you will want to document EVERYTHING they came with and note the condition of the items. Just in case, you will want to document whether they came with clothes that actually fit and are in decent condition.
You will want to keep track of personal items such as blankets, stuffed animals, cell phones, family photos, and such, they bring with them so nothing sentimental is forgotten upon their departure from your home. These pages walk you through many suggested items to document so that is one less thing for you to come up with on your own!
You can also print an extra inventory sheet to keep track of the clothing and personal items you purchase for your child while in your care. These items may also leave with your child, should they go back home or move to another placement home.
You may choose to keep your monthly stipend check stubs in this binder section.
You will also find a mileage log. Your child may be set up with a transport service to take your child to and from visitations with parents, or any appointments your child needs to attend. If you are driving the child around to necessary appointments and visitations in your own vehicle, you may track your mileage for the month on this form. Your state or agency may approve a reimbursement stipend for the cost of your fuel and/or mileage put on your vehicle.
We love to keep an empty page protector sheet or a 3-ring envelope to keep receipts in. We write notes at the top of receipts about items we purchased for the child, or we may place a sticky note at the top of receipts to write any notes about the purchase. These receipts may include purchases for specialty food (i.e.: formula, etc.), clothing, toys, extra-curricular activities, childcare, school fees, team sports, etc. We also include check stubs for our monthly stipend in this binder section.
10. RESPITE CARE
Ah…. Beloved respite care!
This is a fun section that can be included in your organization binder and/or in a separate small ½ inch binder that travels with your child whenever they stay with a respite care provider.
If you are actively using respite care you can log your respite hours here. We have also provided respite care information sheets so your providers have updated information on your child and their major professional contacts. You may also keep a copy of very recent incident reports in here so the providers know what current injuries were caused from. It may also be a great idea to include blank copies of incident reports for respite care providers to fill out should anything happen while your child is staying with them.
These forms include information such as the child’s caseworker contact information, your contact information, time and location of visitations or appointments the provider will have to take the child to, a list of known allergies and normal behaviors the child may show, as well as a section for you to list behaviors that are abnormal for them. You can include type and amount of formula the baby should have, the child’s food and sleep schedule, a short inventory of items you sent with the child, and space for you to write out any other special instructions. Theoretically, these forms should allow you some rest and time to recharge without being bothered with minor details and “quick questions.” Our hopes are that your respite care providers can find all of that information on these sheets and only reach out to you should an emergency arise. Nice, right?
This section, is self-explanatory. You can store your child’s school forms in this section. There is also a form for you to fill in information about your child’s school and teacher contact information. You can keep a copy of your child’s school calendar for a quick reference to track upcoming “no school” days your child’s school has set aside. You may choose to keep a copy of your child’s typical school day schedule here (including special activities such as gym, music, and art classes). Report cards and notes from teachers are best to be kept behind the school binder section divider. If your child has an IEP, you can keep copies of plans and notes here. You may choose to keep the most current Procedural Safeguards in this section as well. Copies are great to have on hand to share with teachers and aides who will be working with your child throughout the day.
This section is not limited to older children. This section may also be helpful if your child is in a preschool or daycare program or is watched by a nanny/babysitter while you are out. We have included a form similar to the Respite Care form that you can provide a babysitter so they are informed on any special instructions and the child’s daily routines and schedules.
In this section we have also included pages that can help your child be successful throughout the day. We have included Potty Charts, as well as Chore Charts you can print out for your children. You can print out multiple copies and write on them each week. You can also place them in a cute frame or laminate them and “go green” by using dry-erase markers instead of printing out a new chart each week when it is completed.
12. BIN LABELS
Our final section in this organization binder set includes printables that you won’t actually keep in your binder, but will help you stay organized! You can print these pages and place them inside clear storage tubs or tape on the outside of tubs. If you are someone who accepts multiple age ranges or are going through clothing size changes often (like you do with babies!) you may not want to store all of the various clothes and toys you have in the child’s dresser and toy shelves. You can organize clothes and toys to keep in the closet or in your garage and QUICKLY find clothes appropriate for new placements or for you child as they age with these bin labels. In fact we have a free JD (Journeys and Dreams) Original Party Series Bin Labels printable for you to download now!
Again we strongly recommend that you check out our previous BLOG POST for more ideas and tips on organizing your foster care binder.
One final feature I love about this organization set is that you can print only the pages you need, and you can print multiple copies of certain pages if you need to. When purchasing an organization set from our Etsy Shop, you (the single user) may print multiple copies for personal use only. This means if you have three foster children in your home, but only want to use one organization set, you may print three copies – one for each child. This, again, allows you to print multiple copies of the pages you need extra of. When you print your document, you can select all, or only specific pages, in the printing prompt.