You’re close to being certified as a foster parent and ready to get a room ready for the kids who will come into your home. It can feel overwhelming to design a space for a kid you haven’t met yet. Does he like blue? Will she think purple is too much? There are a few basics to prepare ahead, but the rest is optional.
Here’s a short list of where to start when preparing a room for foster care:
A bed should come as no surprise. You will need one bed per child. Twin beds are a safe option as they work for the widest age range. Many agencies and counties will certify you for babies without a crib. So if you don’t have the space for a crib and a bed, you can keep a pack and play on hand in the event a baby is placed in your home.
If you want to invest in a crib, consider one that converts into a toddler bed.
Kids will need a place to store their belongings. Two or three drawers per child is a good place to start for younger kids. Older kids will need a dresser with at least five or six drawers. If you don’t have space or access to a dresser, consider getting creative with shelves and storage bins. You want the space to feel permanent and private. Anchor dressers and shelves securely to the wall so they won’t fall over. Stock the closet with appropriately sized hangers so there is space for hanging clothes as well.
Kids will also need places to store books, toys and school supplies so they can keep the room organized. Bring in some bookshelves, chests or other storage solutions. Remember to keep storage solutions separate even if kids are sharing a room to give a strong sense of personal space.
Chair or Beanbag
Create a cozy nook and safe retreat with a simple chair or beanbag. This provides a designated space to read, think or relax. The nook can be in the corner of the room or out in a shared space. The chair should be comfortable, with a few blankets nearby so the child can relax and cuddle.
Reading with kids can help create a bond. When starting your foster care journey, stock up on a range of books that appeal to a wide range of ages and include characters of different races. You can switch out what stays in the room once you learn more about your placement. No need to go overboard. Once you learn what books a child likes, you can purchase more.
Gather a small collection of toys that appeal to both boys and girls and fit within your placement age range. While they don’t have to be stored in the bedroom, having a few basic toys on hand can help break the ice and start the attachment process. Reach out to people in your support group for gently used or inexpensive new toys.
Toiletries are easy. Some kids may have their toiletries packed when they move in, but that’s not always the case. Keep a stock of toothbrushes, hair brushes, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner on hand. Since you won’t know who you are buying for, get products that are allergen free so that you won’t run into any reactions early on. Hair detangler can be a lifesaver for young girls. If you will be fostering babies, have a selection of diapers, wipes, diaper ointment, bottles and pacifiers on hand.
Don’t paint your room blue, pink or even yellow. Grays and tans offer the widest range of decorating options later on. You will also want to grab some neutral bedding and artwork (not required). Keep the overall decor simple so you can easily add to it later.
It can be a fun bonding experience to do a small shopping trip soon after a child arrives to pick out a few decor pieces for the room together.
A Stuffed Animal
Not a pile of stuffed animals and not a stuffed animal that has been used by four other kids; just a single, new stuffed animal. If you don’t want to commit to picking out a single stuffed animal, then buy two or three so the child can choose his favorite. The beauty of this is the child can keep the stuffed animal forever as a reminder of the love he experienced in your home.
A new home can be scary. By providing kids with a night light, or even a dimmer switch, you can help provide a sense of safety at night. The child will be in control of the light in her room and can adjust as desired. This small detail is a great way for kids to feel safe in your home and even regain a small sense of control.
While it can be challenging to set up a room for a child you don’t yet know, these tips should make it a little simpler. If you have any questions, reach out to your Family Care Manager for more tips.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster or adoptive family, attend an info night to get started!