Fostering is a truly unique dynamic. Fostering will affect everyone with the household, and especially the family where dependent children still live. However, this doesn’t mean it’ll be negative or a risk you shouldn’t take.
A Family Approach to Fostering
Fostering, by its very nature, doesn’t sit within the confines of a regular job or even a regular relationship. Therefore, when you choose to foster, the whole family are fostering too. Understandably, your children are your priority. Therefore, the questions you have regarding the impact on them should be welcomed and answered honestly.
As a result, it is imperative that you do give due consideration to the impact that fostering will have on your own children. Understanding the impact on them – both positive and negative – is the key to successful family fostering.
It’s fascinating just how far-reaching the effects of fostering can be. In fact, many children of foster carers go on to become foster carers themselves.
The Positive Effect on Children
Being part of a family that fosters, as a child, brings many benefits. Children learn and practice empathy, patience and compassion. They learn to consider the needs, feelings and experiences of others. They gain a greater understanding of their own place in the world.
Often, they benefit from experiences that they would not otherwise be exposed to. In the process of bringing a foster child into the fold of a new family there are likely to be increased days out and quality family time together.
Being a foster sibling can also help to promote independence while also facilitating a more open and honest relationship between children and their parents. This does need to be parent-led, encouraging your children to be frank about their concerns and ensuring they have time and space to raise them.
It is vital to acknowledge that there can, in some instances, be challenges to fostering.
Some children will have difficulties sharing, whether that is time, attention or toys! Many parents feel this can be turned to a positive experience for the child to learn much-needed life skills.
There will be some degree of disruption. Foster children take time to adjust to a new setting and can bring with them difficulties which impact the whole family. Family scheduling will take some readjusting to factor in the needs of the foster child.
At the end of successful placements, children can feel a sense of loss when they lose their foster sibling. This can be handled sensitively, acknowledging the positive influence they have had in the foster child’s life.
How to Ensure Fostering is a Positive Experience for the Whole Family
It is crucial that you use a service which ensures an appropriate match for the whole family. This requires acknowledging that family children are closely involved in the process and impacted by it. This involvement should be welcomed.
Parents can help by understanding their own children as individuals and listening to them as such and providing dedicated time just for them. They should be involved from the beginning, in the decision to foster. Exceptional foster carer training provides the bedrock to managing conflict within the foster family. They should also be adequately prepared when endings are coming.
Family children should also be informed in an age-appropriate way, why a foster child behaves the way they do. This needs to be within the framework of fair disclosure and without transferring responsibility to the birth child. Your social worker should help with this.