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When we decided to become foster parents, there were quite a few items on our checklist…paperwork, interviews, paperwork, fire inspection, paperwork but I was most excited about decorating the kids bedrooms. We did not have kids of our own, so we were starting from scratch. I had grand plans of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, Mickey Mouse and the list goes on. While exciting to prepare for our first child, it quickly became a daunting task to be prepared for different ages, genders, and possibly more than one!
After 37 kiddos with different needs and interests over 8 years of fostering, and countless changes to room arrangements and decor changes, we have learned a few tips and tricks along the way.
Here are 5 tips to help you prepare bedrooms for foster placements. I’ve also included a printable checklist to help you prepare.
#1 BE FLEXIBLE: We have changed room arrangements countless times for various reasons. We started out licensed 0-5 and were planning for two kiddos. After some time, we began taking teens. We now are licensed for ages 0-18 and have 6 kiddos including adopted and foster kiddos in our home. Our rooms have changed based on sibling group placements, adoption, medical and physical needs of a child, and most often BEHAVIOR. We learned sometimes it’s easier to move bedrooms around than to cause more stress and anxiety for EVERYONE because kids don’t get along or won’t go to sleep. (Having three-two year olds in one room….need I say more?)
#2 BEDS: Flexibility is much easier if you set up your rooms with flexible options from the beginning. We were fortunate to have family and friends donate beds so sometimes you just work with what you have. We have spent a great deal of money and time along the way buying and assembling new beds to meet the needs of our ever-changing family. Be sure to check your county/states guidelines because they all have different rules. For example, our county does not allow daybeds (I was so disappointed), trundle beds, folding cribs/beds, or pack and plays. There are also specific regulations for crib safety. If you are able, consider the following:
- Convertible Crib: Our crib from Ikea that converts into a toddler bed has been our longest lasting and most used bed in our house. I really LOVE this crib. It is space saving, easy to adjust for a newborn, infant, or toddler and it is gender neutral. Bonus…it is a great crib for short mamas like me. There is a link below to our crib for you to check it out.
- Stacking Twin Beds: Our newest purchase when our daughter broke her toddler bed was bunk beds that can be separated into two twin beds. We quickly learned how great these are when a new placement was overweight and couldn’t physically climb in and out of the bunk bed without breaking the bed or hurting herself. We are now able to have the beds back together as bunk beds to allow for more floor space to play. Once again, like our crib, we went with classic white in a gender neutral frame style.
Bedding: Be prepared with mattress protectors. We usually have more than one on each bed. It is common for kids in foster care to have nighttime accidents…even 12 and older may wet the bed. I prefer cloth ones like the ones above because they protect but are more comfortable and less noisy. For the other bedding again, think flexibility. We now have simple bedding that matches a gender neutral color scheme in each room. Once a kiddo is with us for about a week or more, we take the kiddo to the store and have them pick a character/favorite color fleece blanket and maybe a character pillow or poster to make their room more personal. Sometimes I even make no-sew fleece tie blankets with fabric they pick. These items go with our foster kiddos when they leave our home so we try not to go over the top right from the beginning…again lesson learned. So many bedding sets in my basement…but that why its a journey.
#3 CLASSIC/GENDER NEUTRAL STYLE: Resist the urge to go over the top with a thematic room. I know it’s hard but trust me, I have learned from experience. The perfect little girl princess bed may be adorable but you have to think about how a little boy would feel sleeping in a princess bed?! We had the idea of “girl” room and “boy” room too. That did NOT work. Mickey Mouse or Dr. Seuss may be gender neutral but will it be comfortable for a teen? Maybe? If you choose characters like Classic Disney think about how you can make it comfortable for a 5 year old and a teen. It is possible if you are creative. Let me refer you back to tip #1 BE FLEXIBLE. If you are flexible in the placements you will accept, you must be flexible in preparing for ALL kiddos. We have had a house full of a boys, a house full of girls and every age and gender mix you can imagine (including the 13 year old boy who really wanted a princess room).
#4 CLOTHES: My wife may tease me about labels, but I LOVE to label as much as possible. Consider labeling dressers/closet shelves so kids know where to find things and where to put things. We have a variety of clothing storage option, depending on the room in our house. The right size dresser can double as a changing table simply by putting a changing pad on top. You can easily add additional storage by using clear plastic drawer storage like these. These often fit inside the closet or at the foot of the bed. They are also easy to move around or store in the garage when you don’t need them.
- Some kids come with clothes, but most do not. We have a storage shelf unit in our basement with bins labeled by gender and size range with a few outfit and pajamas for each. This makes it easy to grab what we need until we have a chance to go shopping with the clothing voucher provided by the agency.
- You DO NOT need to go and buy clothes before you take your first placement. Ask for donations from friends and family keep a few outfits and pajamas for different sizes for each gender and donate the rest. Along your foster care journey, you will build your inventory of emergency clothes but you simply can’t plan or have room to store enough clothes for every possible situation.
#5 COMFORT: Although the following items are not a requirement in foster care rooms in order to get licensed, you will want to consider these items to help the kiddos feel more comfortable and safe as they experience the trauma of staying in a strange new place. Think about how you felt staying with a friend or a family member that you knew…now imagine staying in a strangers house. What would make you comfortable? What would you worry about?
- Books and Toys: We have bookshelves with cloth bins in every room. This allows for space for books, special items, coloring books, and toys. We can easily switch out books, toys, and other items based on the age of each placement. We have a lot of stuffed animals in every room. We have found even teens like to have something soft to hold at night.
- Radio/Kids Echo Dot: We love our Kids Echo Dot because the kids can listen to music, have a book read to them, or we can use it as a sound machine to play white noise. It is helpful to calm down nervous kiddos and block out new noises in the middle of the night.
- Nightlights/Flashlights: We have a nightlight and a bedside table lamp in every room. We also have nightlights in every hallways, stairway and bathroom. Our son loves having a flashlight in his room and we even had a 12 year old ask for a flashlight so it may be good to have a small one on the bedside table. There is nothing scarier for a kiddo than trying to find the bathroom in the dark in a strange house.