Written by Anna Hull, Family Support Services Supervisor
When you bring a new child into your home, your whole world changes. Some of the changes are readily apparent, like making sure there are enough beds, clothes, and food in your home. The need for other changes may take longer to manifest or may not seem relevant until you are already in the moment. Whether you already have your child in your home or not, it is important to consider what needs to happen in the event of emergencies. While some states require that families create physical safety plans, it is important that all families be able to articulate what they need to do in case of emergencies. We at Carolina Adoption Services encourage all families to develop safety plans that take into consideration their needs, the specific needs of their children, and other possible contingencies.
1. Develop a written safety plan and post it in an accessible place in your home. Include emergency phone numbers and an outline of your home with arrows outlining the paths to any exits. Take into consideration different types of emergencies, such as medical, fire, storms, etc. when developing your plans.
2. As age-appropriate, walk your child through your plans step-by-step so that they become familiar. Use this as an opportunity to identify any special considerations you may need to make or any specific responsibilities your child may have (e.g. waiting for a parent versus leaving the home unaccompanied). Identify and practice the safe paths to leave your home and a specific location to meet, like a neighbor’s house, in case you get separated.
3. Take into consideration any additional needs specific to your child or children, such mobility concerns or needed medications, that will need to be factored into any plan. Don’t forget about comfort toys or sensory objects that may be helpful in the short term, that can help your children remain calm. If you have a spouse or partner, go over specific duties that you can each take responsibility of to ensure that nothing gets forgotten.
4. Ensure that your children have ways to get in touch with you if needed. Help them memorize important phone numbers and teach them about knowing how to ask trusted adults for help.
5. Go over example situations in which your child may need to ask for help. Some children may have trouble identifying what is an emergency or not, depending on their age or developmental needs, so rehearsing possible situations can be helpful.
6. Plan for the long term. Emergencies, even small ones, can awaken old traumas or be traumatic in their own right and may require additional aftercare. Being aware of this ahead of time can help you know what to look for in the long run, if an emergency does end up occurring.