Peeples is a long-term child abuse survivor who ended up in foster care. Her goal is to inform others about foster care and social issues.
Questions to Ask Before Buying Gifts for a Foster Child:
There are many things to consider when getting gifts for foster children. Consider a few things like:
- What is the age of the child?
- How many homes have they have been in?
- How long will they be with you?
- What is their personality like?
- How much do they already have?
- Are you a stranger or their long-term foster parent?
Buying gifts for a foster child can be difficult if you are a stranger because you may not know many of those answers, but that's okay. Many things about foster care are universal.
Let's talk about some good ideas for gifts for foster children. I will explain the real 'value' in each choice.
What's the Best Gift to Give a Foster Child?
1. Backpack or suitcase filled with goodies!
Foster kids often move from home to home, usually with their only belongings in a trash bag. By giving them a backpack or a suitcase, you are providing a safe and special item of their very own to put their belongings in. A backpack is much more special and less embarrassing than carrying a plastic bag. A big suitcase with wheels (what a luxury!) has more space, but it also might send a message that they'll be leaving you one day. This gift will be even nicer if you remind them: "Everyone needs a suitcase. One day you'll want to go on a holiday or go for a sleep-over at a friend's place. You definitely should have a nice suitcase!"
Don't just give them a backpack or suitcase, though. Fill it with the things they need and want. Be as extravagant as you can afford. (Everyone loves a nice new watch, an iPad, or a laptop. Hint, hint.) However, if your budget is limited, choose some items they lack but would really enjoy. For instance:
- Quality hygiene items. A lot of foster kids are using government toothbrushes (yes, that is a thing) and government-issued deodorant (which for the record stinks and doesn't work!). Go out and get some AXE, Pantene, Dove Men's, or Herbal Essences products.
- Give them name brands. . . not because the products might work better, though that is a benefit, but because buying name brands shows you believe your foster child deserves the best.
- Also consider including items like nice, new, bright, and beautiful socks, underwear, and t shirts.
2. Gift cards
- Gift cards are awesome gifts for foster children old enough to understand money.
- They are also good gifts for younger kids. Here's why ...
- Foster kids are not given many options in their lives.
- The clothes they are given are usually not picked out by them, the entertainment or toys are usually already at the foster home, and they usually don't have many possessions that are actually theirs.
- So a gift card for places like Walmart, Target, Game Stop, a local beauty store, or a local toy or entertainment store would make your foster child very happy.
- A card to a store they'd love to visit gives a child the thrill of an immediate gift, with the added bonus of going 'shopping' and picking out an item they get to keep!
3. Wallet or purse
Wallets and purses are often overlooked, yet they can be special gifts for foster children.
A wallet is more than just a place to put things. It is a place to put things of value!
What a brilliant place to put a gift card if you bought one. Opening a wallet and seeing a gift card inside is sure to put a smile on any child's face!
Think about what the child is interested in, then choose a design they will like. Are they into superheroes? Do they like a certain singer? What's their favorite color? If you know them, try to get something you know they are interested in.
If you do not know them, try to get a wallet or purse that is in style. Stylish stuff is hard to come by in foster care.
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4. Movie or amusement park tickets
Movie and amusement park tickets are a wonderful gift for older foster children! Foster kids miss out on a lot of the fun stuff. Kids at school talk about trips to exciting places. Give them a story to tell!
Special tickets deserve their own special envelope. Even better if the ticket is tucked inside a card with a lovely message! Include an extra ticket so they can have a friend with them at the movies. (You might need to be their friend if they don't yet have one in your area. Or perhaps you could start introducing them to other kids, in the search for a movie companion.) One of the nicest things about going to the movies or an amusement park is the chance to feel like 'normal' children.
Movie ticket/s can be safely stored inside their new wallet if you get them one. How great would that be? A new wallet and something valuable to put inside it!
5. The same gifts you'd give a biological child!
I saved this for last. I applaud the efforts of foster carers who try to make things special or different to make up for what the child hasn't had. Please never stop making that extra effort.
But it is really important to also make your foster child feel 'normal.' They want to feel like part of your family. Like they belong. So buy them the same types of gifts you buy your biological children.
- Don't give your foster child underwear as a Christmas gift if you don't do the same for your biological children. Better to just give them some in a less obvious manner. It doesn't help a child's self-esteem to be the only one to receive knickers and socks from Santa.
- If you buy a bangle for one, buy bangles for the others.
- Not all gifts will be the same, of course. But try and find at least a few matching gifts if you have more than one child in your home.
- Perhaps the greatest gift you can give a foster child is a sense of belonging, and not being the odd one out.
Choosing gifts for foster children is the same as choosing gifts for any other child. Although in many ways, it is much easier. Because there are so many things they don't have, you'll have lots to choose from!
© 2019 Peeples
Peeples (author) from South Carolina on May 28, 2019:
Thanks for stopping by guys. Violet, the reason you don't usually give cash to foster children is because many have difficult behavior. So while you can get away with giving cash to a younger child, you probably don't want to give cash to a teen who hasn't had anyone in their life to teach them proper behavior. As someone who had horrible behavior while in foster care, I promise, if someone would have given me $50 I would have spent it on weed, cigs, and probably alcohol lol. They aren't all the same by far, but it is a needed precaution. Your other ideas are spot on!
Violet Malstrom from St Peters, MO on May 28, 2019:
I have experience with "kinship" foster care only. I have been told by my child that cash-money is better than gift cards because you can spend it anywhere. Also, find out the child's hobbies and get something related to that. It's okay to tell them you would like to celebrate them arriving and you would like to get them something in the $50.00? range, and what a few optional things they might like? Or put them on Amazon or Walmart, and tell them to put $100 worth of things in the "cart" then bring you the laptop so you can pay.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 28, 2019:
So nice to see an article by you, and a unique one at that. I hope you and your family are well.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 28, 2019:
I like it. Not the situation but your loving article. Never been a foster parent but we had kids stay with us with their abused mothers. Like a railroad to get them to safety. We gave them our suitcases. We even unpacked them to show they were ours. My wife and mom were awesome.