Everyone knows the stress that comes with decorating. There are so many choices to make from picking the perfect shade of paint to choosing where to put that cute accent piece. As a new foster parent, you’re just discovering how intimidating the task of decorating a room that will be used by children of all ages and backgrounds can be. Your excitement over the thought of fostering and getting to redo a room probably has millions of decorating ideas running through your head, all of which you probably have second guessed a few times already.
When Patricia D.’s foster daughter came to her door with only a t-shirt and clutching a motel blanket after having been removed from her biological parents, Patricia knew she needed to make a room for her foster daughter that would create, “an environment that she can call her own, feel stable and happy.” Since Patricia knew that her foster daughter loved Frozen, she was able to design a room that would be a special place for the little girl.
If you’re open to fostering both boys and girls, you might want to make the room for your foster child as gender neutral as possible. By using a lighter shade of green or yellow paint on the walls you can easily add blue or pink accents to make the room feel more gender specific without having to worry about clashing. Along with using a gender neutral color, pick a theme for the room that a child may like. Consider a jungle or beach inspired room, which can be fun and let your foster child use their imagination to take them on far away adventures.
When you find out the child’s gender, you can then break out different decorations to help the room for your foster child feel more like it was meant just for them. The decorations can go beyond being blue or pink. To make the room for your foster child more fitting for a girl, consider putting up pictures of flowers. For a boy, you could hang images of bugs if you go for a jungle theme. These pictures can be a great learning opportunity for your foster child and inspire them to look up facts about flowers or bugs in the decorations. However, keep in mind that not all girls will like flowers and not all boys will like bugs. Wall stickers are a great way to further customize the room as many are removable and reusable.
When buying items to decorate the room for your foster child, there are a some things that are great to have no matter the gender. Always have empty picture frames around in case your foster child has any pictures they want to display.
Don’t go overboard when buying toys and accessories for your foster child before they arrive. If you aren’t their first foster home, they may already have a suitcase filled with Legos and coloring books. If you’re their first experience in foster care, a room filled with games and dolls might be overwhelming and completely different from their old room. Have a few things around, like a soccer ball, art supplies or a board game for them to play with you when they first arrive. Once you learn their interests, then you can go out and buy toys that you know will be really special to them.
Once your foster child is settled in, take them to a store and let them pick out sheets and comforters for their bed, much like Patricia did. This gives them a sense of control over something during a time when they feel like they have none. It also lets them make the room their own and can give you small sense of what they like.
If you are open to fostering infants and toddlers, look into getting a crib that can convert into a toddler bed to add versatility to the room and save you from having to buy two pieces of furniture.
While you shouldn’t go overboard with buying toys for your foster child, there are certain items to have for when they first arrive. Have stuffed animals put aside for your foster child to choose from. Giving them a gift will let them know that you already care about them. Letting your foster child pick out which one they want not only gives them a feeling of control of the situation but also gives them a sense of ownership of something in your home. The stuffed animal will also be a comforting friend as they adjust to their new surroundings.
If your foster child is younger, let them pick out their own nightlight. It will help make the room feel more like their own, as well as be a source of comfort throughout the night as they get used to the sights and sounds of your home.
By starting with a gender neutral room that the child can make their own, you can help ensure that it will be a place where they will feel welcomed and safe during their foster care journey. If you need help covering an extra expense that would help your foster child feel more at home with you, much like Patricia did, you can apply for Foster and Adoptive Family Services’ Fostering Wishes for Children program that offers a one time grant for such expenses.