Foster carers whose own children have accepted a foster child into the family will be aware this is sons and daughters month. This is an annual recognition of the unique contribution to fostering made by the birth children of carers – as well as the unique factors such as fostering families face.
This is a short series looking at some of the issues associated with the experiences of these families’
Welcoming a vulnerable child into a family is a huge step to take. And certainly not one to be taken lightly. Carers who do this will have ideas of what will be positive about the experience for their own children. Such ideas are usually broadly similar: friendship, richer family life and someone to play with – their own ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ – an idea especially common where it’s an only child in the family. Most of us involved in fostering will recognise that these positive ideas or benefits are often expressed by the birth children. This is hardly surprising since parents considering fostering will naturally have focused on the up-side as they see it. This is not to downgrade such positives for they are certainly real and tangible. Learning to share is always a good thing and discovering your own life and circumstances are very fortunate compared to someone else’s is salutary and educational. It has to be recognised that some children will have strong objections to the idea of sharing their home with a stranger. These must be recognised and viewed as a clear message back to the parents. It should also be appreciated that such a reaction is almost certainly on an emotional level and instinctive. This should not be taken lightly. Parents also need to understand the risks of becoming unintentionally coercive – important because most children will naturally want to please their parents.
It is essential that carers own children understand as much as possible and are ready and have a good idea of what fostering is about. Never forget that it will at times be very difficult for them to share their lives. They will need a lot of reassurance. They should always understand that their parent, however busy, can always be approached if there is a problem.
That said no two families, or indeed children, are alike. Some children may embrace the idea from the outset – this will depend on conversations prior to parents deciding to proceed. It should be anticipated that once the reality of fostering is experienced, the idea that may have been enthusiastically supported initially can be viewed very differently. Here, the fostering service providers and local authorities have a particular responsibility in relation to thoughtful matching. No two fostering experiences are ever alike which means there as to be particular sensitivity where a foster child is being placed in a setting alongside birth children.
Whatever their ages or genders the impact of fostering on foster carers own children will be considerable. This will not be a cousin or family friend coming to stay with an end date in mind. More children are coming into care who have had traumatic experiences and suffered considerable upset. They are not always easy to be with – and that applies to the adults as much as for the children in a fostering household. A Child who may have been abused and neglected will arrive in a setting which will be confusing and unfamiliar.
It should be appreciated that sons and daughters of carers who live apart from their parents can still be impacted by their parents choosing to foster. In circumstances where parents are themselves divorced or separated, the law requires that fostering service providers consider the implications of fostering for all the children of the applicants. It is very important for foster carers who might not have their own children living with them, that consideration is given to their views and feelings.
Moving forward in a new fostering household.
The children of a carer may supportive and perhaps enthusiastic about the arrival of a new family member. But, as any foster carer knows, fostering can be unpredictable. Family dynamics are always shifting – even when there isn’t a foster child in the home. A carers birth children may sense their feelings change as the reality of sharing their home and sometimes personal possessions hits. It’s common for them to begin to resent the time their parents spend with the foster child. One of the most difficult experiences for birth children is when they see the foster child in their midst displaying unappreciative, disruptive and challenging behaviour toward their parents. It is also fairly common for birth children to experience from time to time feelings that it is always they who must give way or be understanding.
Potential Risks for a carer’s own children.
Foster carers should be aware that the fostering situation can present certain risks to their own children. These can include: complaints or allegations made against the foster carer’s children in connection with bullying, abuse or abuse of a sexual nature; a carer’s own child becoming involved in a sexualised activity or being exposed to unsuitable material such as chatelaines or websites known to the fostered child; the carer’s child becoming aware of and possibly drawn into an online world where material of a violent or sexual nature is depicted; physical bullying or sexual intimidation by the fostered child; the foster carers own child becoming sexually involved with the fostered child. Exposure to such risks is more likely if the fostered child has not shared their experiences with previous foster carers or social workers. It is a fact that there is more sexualised behaviour between children and young people in fostering families than both carers or even social workers are comfortable admitting. It is nonetheless a conversation that must be had. A fostering placement has above all to be safe and secure. This means all children in a household need to understand that any form of sexual engagement with a foster child is completely unacceptable. Carers – as well as social workers – must always remain vigilant about the nature of the developing relationships between children in their homes.
All such risks need to be kept in proportion. What is required is vigilance. And children who are not growing up in fostering households can be equally at risk from online risks. There is also a great deal of information and reaction supporting just how positive the experiences of sons and daughters of carers can be having a foster child in their family. Many of these children report having unique and life-enhancing experiences and an even greater sense of family. These they say they increasingly value as they get older.
As with everything, so much depends upon the dynamics of the individual families involved combined with those who interact with them from the outside, such as social workers and other care professionals.
Why choose Rainbow Fostering.
Rainbow is an independent fostering agency that has been established for well over twenty years. We are dedicated to supporting the children and young people we place in carer’s homes. Our experience ensures the best placement matches facilitating positive fostering experiences for all involved. Our commitment is to both our children and our carers realising their full potential. We strive to ensure that everyone’s emotional and professional needs and aspirations will be met.
Considering foster care agencies near me? If you live in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Hampshire we can offer a variety of fostering placements. These might be on a short-term basis lasting a few weeks, or over the longer-term for children unable to live with their own families.
You don’t need any special experience or prior training to become a carer. Rainbow will welcome you whatever your gender, race, sexual orientation or marital status.
We have been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. They have recognised the quality of our efforts to give children and young people in care the very best chance to make a success of their lives. And we share the same goal for our carers. We provide the highest level of training, support and financial incentives for our foster carers.
The job of foster care and the experiences of carers will always vary depending on an individual’s circumstances and those of their family. Foster care adoption – there are differences and we are happy to explain them. To find out more call us on 0330 311 2845 we will take the time to answer your questions on whatever they may be: foster care allowance; foster care payments or foster care for babies.
Covid 19: we are processing applications and conducting ‘virtual home visits’ over Skype which we can easily arrange. This means you can still expect to be ‘Approved’ to foster within our normal time frame – usually around sixteen weeks. Remember we value highly your enquiry – even if you decide fostering is not for you. Fostering children is one of the most positive things anyone can do and the more people who make the effort to find out what it involves the better. Especially as the need to provide secure loving homes is rising all the time. It’s important to spread the word and it may be that you tell someone else about your conversation with us and they become interested – and who knows – end up fostering.
A blog for today:
Coronavirus is an enormous challenge. Now that children have returned to nurseries, schools and universities, checking the latest advice and guidance to stay safe is more important than ever – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus You can find Rainbow’s contact details and locations at the link below. Leave your contact details with us and arrange us to call at a time to suit you. We hope to hear from you very soon! Stay safe by remembering Hands, Face, Space. http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/contact/