Legal Sleeping Arrangements for Children

By Karen LoBello
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There are no laws in place to stipulate sleeping arrangements for children in private homes; however, that changes when boys and girls are placed into foster care. Above all, the environment of the home must be safe and secure. Check with child protective services in your state to determine its specific requirements for children’s sleeping arrangements. Each state sets minimum parameters, but there are common threads.

Square Footage

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In shared bedrooms, each occupant must typically have at least 40 square feet of floor space. There are limits to the number of occupants per room. In New York, no more than three people may occupy one room. The beds must fit appropriately into the space, leaving adequate room for walking and adhering to emergency evacuation codes. Single occupant bedrooms must provide at least 80 square feet of living space.

Shared Rooms

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In some states, a separate bedroom must be provided to children over seven years old. In the case of siblings or half-siblings, they may share a room, especially when it’s an effort to keep them in the same home. The accommodations must be consistent with the health, safety and welfare of all the involved children.

Beds and Mattresses

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Each child must have his or her own bed and mattress. In some cases, two children of the same sex may share a double bed. Babies must be provided cribs. The mattress should be firm or orthopedic. It must be in good, clean condition and have a waterproof cover. Bedding must adequately accommodate the seasons.

Storage Space

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Each child needs sufficient storage space for his or her clothing and belongings. A dresser—or, in some cases, a minimum amount of drawers in a dresser—are mandatory. The child must be given ample closet space as well.

Adult Supervision

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During the night, it is essential that a responsible caregiver be within calling distance of the children. Boys and girls may not sleep in the same bed as a caregiver. Beyond a certain age (generally, a year old) a child may not sleep in the same room with the foster parent. There are exceptions in the case of a medical condition or a temporary illness, but a doctor’s intervention may be required.

Adjunct Areas

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In some states, children are not permitted to sleep in finished basements or in rooms above the second floor. Other states permit children over the age of six or seven to occupy these optional spaces. The room needs to contain proper exits and adequate heating, cooling, ventilation and humidity control.

Caseworker Involvement

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Sleeping arrangements are assessed by caseworkers. The child’s history comes into play; if it involves sexual abuse or exploitation, special measures will be taken. Caseworkers address the ages and age differences of children who are sleeping in the same bedroom.

About the Author

Karen LoBello is coauthor of “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” She began writing in 2009, following a career as a Nevada teacher. LoBello holds a bachelor's degree in K-8 education, a secondary degree in early childhood education and a master's degree in computer education.