09 Jul The Impacts of Fostering on Birth Children
If you’ve ever considered fostering, you’ve inevitably wondered what the impact of fostering might be on your own children. My name is Katie, I’m a supervising social worker and care partner for Fusion Fostering, but I was also a birth child in a Foster family for 25 years. Many people have reservations when considering fostering due to the impact it may have on their own children, understandably so, but I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible to do safely, it can also be a hugely positive and successful experience for your own children.
My parents began fostering when I was only 2 years old so, for me, fostering was a normal part of family life. Don’t get me wrong, there were most certainly challenges along the way. I remember seeing children swear at my parents, become aggressive at times and occasionally I had my belongings stolen. There was one time a child stole my tooth from under my pillow in the hopes of securing the rewards from the tooth fairy for herself! I remember feeling somewhat jealous of the children we cared for on occasion, as they were often taken out on fun trips by various support workers and they got away with things my brother and I would never have dreamt of doing. Despite all of this, my overall memory of growing up alongside foster children is entirely positive.
From a young age I experienced living with children from different backgrounds and the fact that not all children were fortunate enough to have loving parents such as my own. I learnt simple skills such as how to play with and share with other children and also bigger life lessons such as the importance of distraction techniques when children were dysregulated.
It is a fact that birth children can have a huge impact on the success or failure of placements. For me, one of the reasons why my family were so successful in fostering alongside raising their own children was due to the way in which my parents managed the situation. Looking back, I think there are 4 main ways they did this:
1. Time – I always felt that I had enough time with my parents, my mum would ensure we could have time alone together every Saturday whilst dad took over the care of any children we had in placement for a few hours. We would usually go off shopping or for some lunch which was time I valued. My mum also ensured this continued into my adult years and remembered that although I was now an adult I was still sharing my parents with other children and still needed them just as much as ever.
2. Protection – my parents always protected me from difficult information that as a child they knew I should not be aware of. I was told enough information to understand why the children we cared for were with us, but not so much that I was afraid of what the children had been through or where they had come from. As an adult I am now aware of some of the very challenging situations and information my parents were exposed to; but throughout my childhood I was protected from this, allowing me to experience what felt like normal sibling relationships with the children who joined our family under the safety of my parents’ supervision.
3. Responsibility – as I grew older, I was allowed to take some responsibility over things such as taking children off to the shops, or to the park, and eventually looking after children if my mum and dad went out. This made me feel a real part of the Fostering family, and like I had an important part to play. I was able to show the children around the house when they first arrived and sometimes I could distract them when they were beginning to get upset.
4. Inclusivity – Without being given too much information, I was never sheltered from the fostering process; I knew about all of the meetings involved and wasn’t told to go to my room when Social Workers visited. I was encouraged to say how I was feeling and to feedback when something had happened that I was involved in. I grew up knowing the social workers we worked with and, in turn, learning to trust them. I felt like I had some involvement over what went on and that my view counted. Fostering was something we were all signed up to, not something I was dragged along with.
For those people who are considering fostering but have some worries about the impact on their children, I ask them to consider this: could your children be instrumental in enriching the experiences of those children you might care for? Do your children have their own skills to bring to the table? Could fostering help your children become more understanding and supportive members of society?
If we are risk sensible instead of risk adverse and allow all children in the home access to the opportunities and love that all children deserve, fostering can work for everyone and change lives for the better. It is important to carefully consider if fostering is right for your children and this is of course an individual decision for each family, but if you feel the time could be right, your children could become instrumental in your success as foster carers if given the right support, guidance and care.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer and based in the South East, get in touch with Katie and Mark Gibson-Cook on 01329 227686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For other regions please contact Fusion HQ on 03301 239355 or fill in our contact form.