Fostering impacts the whole family and so it is essential the decision to foster is a joint decision and one in which everyone must have their say. But how does fostering affect your family?
Your own children will be an important part of the fostering process…
Children who cannot live with their birth families are unable to do so for many reasons. Becoming part of a family again is a big deal for them.
But the trauma they have faced and the secrets they have yet to tell will weight heavy with them. A foster child may be quiet and withdrawn. They will be overwhelmed, unsure and even scared.
Your own children are important in the fostering process, but it is important that they are not placed under pressure to play with the foster child, to share a room, share their friends and their favourite toys or tech with them.
Allow any friendships and relationships to develop naturally.
… but they can find it daunting too
A foster child can present behaviour and use language that your own child can find very scary. Also, if they acted in this way or spoke to you in such a way, they would be told off!
For a foster child, the reasons why they act out, swear and so on are usually for reasons that run very deep. There is a difference between excusing poor behaviour and not dealing with it and understanding it and dealing with it in an appropriate way.
Your foster child is important…
Welcoming a foster child into your home can be disruptive, or it can be a smooth transition – it depends very much on the child and the reasons why they are in foster care sometimes too.
They will need a lot of your time, patience and energy.
… but continue to make time for your own children
This last sentence alone will say a lot to parents. It is not uncommon for the children of foster parents to feel jealous and resentful towards a foster child.
As the foster child will swallow your time, your child has to learn to share you; something children are not always very good at doing.
Not only that, their lives will change too. The schedule of things that you used to so as a family will, to a certain extent, revolve around what you can and can’t do with a foster child in the family.
For example, at one time, you would watch them at their weekly swimming lesson but now its Grandma or Grandad who take them because you have to do something with the foster child instead.
It is important that you make time for your own children and that this time happens without fail.
Just as you promise to be there for your foster child, you need to be there for your own children too.
You need to maintain confidentiality…
As a foster carer, you will be given information about the foster child coming to live with you and you need to maintain confidentiality.
… but communicate with everyone in the family
Just as you wouldn’t expect to welcome a foster child ‘blind’, don’t expect your own children to do the same. Tell them a little about the foster child, how long they will be with you and so on.
Explain children will leave and it’s OK to be sad
When a friendship is formed, it can be tough to wave goodbye to a foster child.
However, there are times when goodbye is not an ending but the start of a new chapter for the foster child, such as moving to their forever family.
Lifelong friendships can be created as part of fostering. It can help your own children to become empathetic, thoughtful adults, as well as a chance to create lifelong friendships. Is your family able to welcome a foster child?
As part of the fostering process, Fostering People work closely with the children of foster carers to help them understand what is involved. Find out more about their ‘Speak Out Loud’ toolkit.