I sent our first care package within a week of being matched with our son. It felt so good to shop for him, wandering the aisles of Target thinking about him, just as I did with my other three kiddos. It also felt good to “have something to do” during the wait. Besides, with the months of hustling for paperwork and jumping through hoops over, I needed a new reason to stalk the mailman. 🙂
The question of what to send in an adoption care package comes up often in the adoption groups online- followed by asking for gift ideas for foster families. I decided to compile all of the items we’ve sent in our care packages into one convenient list.
You can see examples of all of the adoption care packages we have sent each month:
What to Send in a Care Package
I tried to always think of practical items that would be helpful for the foster family, like items they may need to replace or replenish with a new foster placement. I also tried to send smaller toys (obviously to save on shipping items) but also to be respectful of their home. (For example: toys that come with their own container for easy storage vs toys that make awful, loud noises.)
I tried to minimize sending clothing with English writing and pick items without words or brands displayed on them instead. It is recommended to send new, unwashed items with the tags still on.
- Clothes (use the measurements from their well child checks to guesstimate size, but most people recommend sending one size up. Consider the weather and culture- Koreans love to layer babies’ clothing (something not common in Texas) and they also wear hats regularly.)
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Socks and shoes
- Baby snacks – puffs, pouches, teething biscuits
- Soft, crinkle books
- Bath toys
- Bubbles (wrap in paper towel and seal in a plastic bag)
- Toddler utensils, snack catchers, sippy cups
- Diaper rash cream
- Recordable photo albums or story books
Don’t forget to send a reusable shopping bag for the Foster Mom (or Dad) to tote all of the items back home! Typically the foster families use public transit to travel to the offices, so it’s recommended to send a bag for them to carry all of the goodies home easily. I stocked up on the ones from stores like Ross/ TJ Maxx for $0.99- they come in a ton of prints and are a nice size.
Gift Ideas for Foster Families
- Burt’s Bees brand items- lip balm, lotions
- Nuts like cashews or specialty flavors
- Beef jerky
- Notebook- send with a note requesting the foster parents write milestones or notes about your kiddo while with them
- USB drive- send images/ videos to the family. Many adoptive parents stated that their foster family returned the USB at custody full of photos of their kiddo.
- Specialty chocolate- individually wrapped is best
- Instant Coffee
- Local honey
- Nutella or cookie butter
- Something local or specially made in your State
I’ve read online, and confirmed with my friend from Korea, that vitamins are a good item to send because it can be expensive to buy good brands there or ship ones from abroad. It felt kind of odd buying vitamins for someone I’ve never met (?), but I have also learned that “practical” gifts are very appropriate and appreciated in South Korea.
How to Save Money
It pains me to pay full price for clothes- especially for ones my kids that will outgrow quickly. For this reason, I always try to buy a season ahead. I shop the 80% off racks at Kohl’s (with my 30% off coupon) at the end of the season to buy clothes in the next size up for next year. I typically pay between $.50-$5 for Carters clothes when I do this. (I do peel the clearance stickers off and cut the prices off of the tags before sending the items.) TJ Maxx, Ross, and Carter’s are also great places to stock up but typically fall more in the $8-12 range.
Shipping Care Packages
Keep in mind that you will need to declare the items and their estimated value on the customs form. Our agency recommends keeping the cost of the goods under $100. Shipping costs will vary wildly based on your location and weight of the box, but it typically costs me $65-$85 to ship from Texas and is delivered to South Korea in about 10-14 days. I’ve only had one box “get lost in transit” but, thankfully, it was eventually found and delivered.
Sending Special Items
I send every box with the understanding that we may never see those items again. I hope the foster mother keeps anything and everything she can use again with their next placement. For this reason, I don’t send anything sentimental or personalized- with the exception of the photo books and one of Eli’s Christmas presents. This adorable photo puzzle:
That said, I’ve heard it go both ways. Some foster families return EVERYTHING to the adoptive parents at custody and some only send the child with the clothes on their back. Be prepared for either scenario.
We plan to bring an extra empty suitcase for Eli when we travel in case we need to bring home anything we receive back from FM or that we picked up for him while we are there.
With most of our adoption care packages I included pictures of our family from that month. Nothing fancy, I just printed pictures I had taken on my phone at our local Walmart. I then wrote a short caption for each photo and had my friend translate it into Korean. I printed both the English and Korean sentences and taped them to the back of each photo. I also wrote a personal letter to the foster family (introducing us, telling about our home/ family/ jobs, etc) in our initial care package and another personal letter in Eli’s Christmas package.
If you don’t know anyone fluent in Korean, there are several translation services online. (I know several families that recommend Little Seouls translation services.) The social workers at your agency can also translate notes, however it may delay your box getting to your kiddo while they do.
Regarding Sending Care Packages Overseas
We are adopting from South Korea, where our child is in a loving foster family home. When I send a care package, I know it is going to my child and my child’s foster family.
I’ve read a few different blog posts about sending care packages to waiting children overseas in orphanages. That isn’t what I am speaking to in this post. As someone who has spent time in an orphanage in Africa, I wouldn’t recommend sending child-specific care packages in that situation. If you are adopting a child that is currently in an orphanage, I would suggest first finding out what items are needed by the orphanage as a whole or saving the money you might send on care packages and adding it to your orphanage donation fee instead.