When a person decides to become a foster parent, they often wonder the best way of setting up a bedroom for foster care. Waiting for the call is tough, and shopping and painting and all the decorating can be a fun way to pass the time. As tempting as it is to go overboard, my biggest advice is not to go overboard. I know how cute everything looks in a store when you’re bored. But who knows if you’ll ever have a placement during the summer who fits in 2t clothing and loves frilly dresses the way you love that adorable sleeveless thing you just saw on Etsy. Go minimal. You can always buy more specific things later when a placement arrives.
Here are my suggestions for setting up a bedroom for foster care:
I often hear people say they like to stock up on clothing and I will never understand this one. If you take emergency placements or live very far from a clothing store you might consider stocking up. But in most cases, stocking up on clothing isn’t worth it. Most people have at least an hour and often a day or two between a placement call and a child arriving. There is usually ample time to head to the store and grab a few things. Even after you say yes to a call, you still likely won’t want to stock up too much until you meet the child. Many children have very specific taste in clothing (at age 4 James would only wear jeans, meanwhile his best friend would only wear sweatpants). And without the child present, sizing things correctly is a stab in the dark. If you are a single foster parent or anticipate difficulty getting to the store after a new placement, just consider it time to spring for Amazon Prime.
2) The Bed
If you have enough room go ahead and get a crib and a bed. But if you are lacking on space, just go with a twin bed for now. Most agencies will approve you for a baby even if you don’t own a crib. You can keep an unassembled pack and play under the twin bed to hold you over in case you get a call for a baby. If you do get a call for a baby and end up purchasing a crib, buy one that also converts to a toddler bed. Since sheets don’t take up a ton of space in the closet, I’d suggest buying several different sheet sets and a more neutral comforter. When children come in to foster care they have lost all control of everything, and something as small as picking their own new sheets out of the closet may immediately help give them just the tiniest feeling of ownership over a completely foreign room.
If you only have one bedroom devoted to foster care, I would highly suggest a neutral paint color. You might think you are only taking boys, or only taking girls. But I’ve known many a foster parent to change their mind when the bedroom is empty and a little one has nowhere else to go. If you pick a more neutral paint color, it’s easy to personalize the walls with hanging art or wall stickers. My personal favorite color for adaptability is light green.
4) Books and Toys that Show Diversity
With foster care you can’t be certain what race the children placed with you will be. You can get a vague idea by looking at the demographics of your community, but you can’t be certain. Stock up on books that depict as many different children and families as possible. Buy dolls, action figures, and movies that depict diversity.
5) Crowd Pleasers
If you already have children in your home you probably don’t need to worry about this one. But if becoming a foster parent for the first time also means you are becoming a parent for the first time (or the first time in a long time), stock up on a few toys that are popular across a large expanse of ages. Play-Doh, art supplies, a play kitchen, hot wheels, a soccer ball… don’t go nuts. You are going to want to get to know a child and buy them things specific their interests. But definitely have a few things on hand that have immediate appeal.
6) A Lovey
Most foster parents I know keep a small stash of stuffed animals on hand. You’d be surprised that even older kids often appreciate this. You don’t need a bunch, just keep a few different ones in the closet and let a new placement pick their favorite.
7) Toiletries and Other Essentials
First think about what your age range is, and then think about what kids that age might need immediately after arriving (before a shopping trip can happen). The main thing I would say every foster parent should have on hand is extra tooth brushes. That’s a definite for all ages. Combs and brushes. Baby shampoo. Deodorant. Hair detangler is a big one that foster parents often find they need immediately. If you plan to take babies or toddlers, pacifiers and a small pack of diapers in every other size are a good idea to have on hand. If you are open to taking emergency placements you might want to keep a stash of jammies, socks, and underwear in the drawer, although most clothing can be bought quickly, 2AM calls mean no time for shopping.
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