One of the questions I’m regularly asked is how I prepare our bedrooms for new placements. We take in kids ages 0-18, any gender - so our rooms need to be versatile. It's not impossible that one day we'll have a 13-month-old baby, and then two days later three sisters are coming to stay with us.
So here's my typical drill - I usually have at least 15-20 minutes before the social worker arrives with the child. If that's the case, I spray the room down with a lavender essential oil spray, switch out the books according to their age, put out the "Welcome Book," bring out a basket of toys that are age appropriate to keep at the end of their bed, and then put a Yes! Basket of food and a bottle of water on the bedside table for them. If a baby was coming, I would wheel the crib out of the closet and put it in our room. I also make sure our portable stereo is charged, because one of the best ways I’ve found to connect with kids on their first night, is to color with them at bedtime and listen to an audiobook. In-between placements I make the beds with two mattress protectors on each bed, along with a pee-pad in-between them (regardless of age). This would all take about 10 minutes to do, but makes the transition so much easier into our home.
I also get the night lights ready. For new kids, it can be terrifying trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night, so I make sure I have at least two night-lights in their room, as well as night-lights lining the halls to the bathroom. I remember one time I forgot to do this, and found a little boy wandering around the house, crying in the middle of the night (I'll never make that mistake again).
I try to keep the room bright and clean, but not overly decorated. I try to incorporate as many comforting sensory objects as possible. Some ideas are calm down jars, squishy tubes, sequined pillows that you can trace designs on, flannel sheets, and lots of blankets.
If a kid is with us longer than a few days, I will go to Target with them the following day and let them pick out a poster/picture for their room. It helps them feel like their room is their own space and gives them a little sense of control over the situation. More often than not, I make a point to ask the birth parents for a family photo. Once I have these pictures I hang them by the child’s bed.
Sometimes kids will come to us with just a garbage bag or a duffle bag full of things they were able to grab before leaving their home. Often times in those bags there will be a blanket or stuffed animal. More often than not they smell awful or are extremely dirty. I would strongly recommend not trying to wash these items right away (the exception is lice) because sometimes this stuffed animal or blanket can be the only thing in this child’s life that gives them any sense of security. Taking it and washing it on the first night can seem tempting, but removing their one last security item in this extremely stressful time can really impact the child.
If you're reading this as a prospective foster parent, I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to shoot me a message if you have any other questions.