Foster carers and anyone who has ever enquired about fostering will know that the there is one precondition and that is to have a spare room for a child or young person. There are key benefits of having a spare room – quite apart from being part of the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards – and these include considerations relating to a child’s security, safety, and privacy.
We all know that our own home is a refuge from life’s pressures. It is a place where we can relax and recharge our batteries. So, we should be able to understand that for a foster child, whose life experiences may have been chaotic and upsetting, having your own room is enormously significant. Especially if you have never had one before. For foster children who may well have experienced trauma and neglect, their having your own room is a haven. It is somewhere to feel safe – and perhaps for the first time. It is also somewhere to adjust and adapt to a new and unfamiliar environment. A foster child will also be able to process the events that have brought them into care in a quiet, safe, and private place. This can be a vital part of them coming to terms with their situation. And this, in turn, is likely to help them settle more easily into being with a new family. The pleasure of having a room to call your own is something we can all understand.
Foster carers can help make a child’s room very special.
Once a child has been given a room of their own, that should just be the start. A room can be a real project. And this can mean offering a great way to build a relationship with a child. It’s a way of finding out about their interests and getting those all-important conversations going. It should be easily possible to help a youngster turn their living space into a vibrant and stimulating place that they will love spending time in. For very young children, it can; with a little invention, be turned into somewhere quite magical. And, most importantly, this need not be expensive at all. Paint can instantly transform walls, ceilings (hopefully not carpets) and old pieces of furniture. Using bold and bright colours will make a room inviting. Somewhere a foster child might like to invite friends. Anything brought into a room has to be safe, so an old chair for example – maybe from a charity shop to keep costs low – should be checked for splinters. It can then be transformed by a lick of paint. A notice board is a great addition to a wall as it is an invitation to pin all sorts of colourful things on. Just think how, for example, fridge doors can be festooned with colourful magnets. A blackboard fixed to the wall will allow more and varied colour which can be changed every day. A poster of a football team or favourite pop group are also things that can make a room seem very individual. Colourful rugs and curtains can be bought cheaply and these can transform the mood and look of a room instantly. For older foster children, it will be important that they have a desk where they can do schoolwork without interruption. An excellent idea is to make point of getting a shelf – even better a whole shelf unit – specifically to encourage reading. Some foster carers go further and help a child to create a special reading ‘den’ in the corner of their room. This creates an opportunity for a lot of imagination and; this so important, collaboration. Making an effort with such things will demonstrate to a child the inherent value of reading. And encouraging a love of books and literacy can be what positively transforms a young persons ideas about their own future ambitions.
One foster carer in our agency had a brilliant idea which was to get their foster child a ‘Welcome’ mat of the type used for front doors and let them put it outside their bedroom door. This was a fantastic way for their young person to signal when they wanted time just to be by themselves. All they had to do was turn the mat upside down.
The fun of collaboration.
It should be easy to see why a foster child’s own room has so much transformative potential. Collaborating around the decoration and personalising of a room can make a child feel really important, wanted and valued. In short, it’s a great way to demonstrate that they truly matter. For a young person who has never really felt this, the effect can be hugely significant. And it can mean the very success of a placement – or at he very least that it gets off to a good start. It provides the means to build and maintain a relationship through good and tough times. Whatever difficulties a child has to deal with, being able to go back to the room that they helped fashion, is a powerful reminder that someone has their interests very much at heart.
Do you have a spare bedroom, become a Foster Carer today!