My Family Fosters
My family is thinking about fostering
If you are reading this then your family are thinking about becoming Foster Carers. Hopefully, this information will help you understand what that means for you.
Fostering involves the whole family. Lots of families foster, and it is different for everyone. It’s very important that you know what is going on and who is coming to stay. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are uncertain of anything.
This section will try and answer the questions that are often asked by sons and daughters of foster carers. It will also explain a little bit about what fostering will involve, and some of the changes you may face.
It’s important to remember that if you are uncomfortable or unhappy about anything, you should talk to an adult who will listen.
What does fostering mean?
Fostering is when a family looks after a child or young person while they are unable to live with their own parents. This might be for a few days, a few months, or even possible a few years.
There are many different types of fostering. Ask your parent(s) what type of fostering they are planning to do. For example, some families look after children with disabilities, or choose to care for a particular age group. Other families do ‘respite’ care, which means someone comes to stay for short periods, but regularly – for example, one weekend a month.
Sometimes more than one child might come to stay at the same time. They might not be related, but sometimes brothers and sisters are fostered together.
Why do people foster?
There are lots of reason, but usually it is because they want to help children who are going through a difficult time. Lots of carers say it is very rewarding to be able to give a child a home when they need it, and provide the support they need.
Why do children come into care?
Again, there are many different reasons. Some may need somewhere to stay for a short time, for example if a parent is ill and there is nowhere for them to go. Some may be having trouble getting on with their own family. Sometimes children come into foster care because their parents have not looked after them properly, and some may have been hurt in the past.
Sometimes they will go back to their own families, other times they may move on to another foster family or to be adopted. Being fostered can be a scary experience – imagine how you would feel about moving away from your family and going to live with strangers.
What has fostering got to do with me?
A lot! Having someone come and live with you will have a huge impact on your life. Although your parent(s) will be responsible for the children that come to stay, your life will change too, and you will be involved in helping to make them comfortable in your own home.
As part of a fostering family, you can make a real difference. When you do find things difficult, try to remember that the other children are away form their own homes, and the people that they know, which can be really tough. If you are friendly and welcoming this can help them feel more comfortable.
You will get to meet lots of new people, and it can be fun to have other people in the house. Hopefully, you will find fostering a good experience overall.
Questions you might have
Before your family is ‘approved’ to foster, you will go through a period of preparation. Your parent(s) will go through what is known as an assessment, to check that they are able to look after children properly. This can e annoying and you might not think it is necessary. But remember, the social workers do not know your family and they have to make sure any child that comes to live with you will be well looked after.
You should receive some sort of training during this time, to let you know a little bit more about what to expect before the first fostered child comes to stay. If you don’t get this, don’t be afraid to ask.
Try to think about your family, how things work, what rules are important and which more relaxed. Take some time to sit down together and talk about why you feel this way. Decide what is important to all of you – for example, that everyone in the house respects each other’s opinions – and talk about how you would make sure this stays the same.
You should talk about things that might have to change, and how you will all cope. By doing this before the first fostered child comes to stay, you will have some idea what to expect and you will have discussed it as a family.
Obviously, you will want to know as much as possible about who’s coming to stay before they turn up. Your parent(s) should tell you as much as they can. Sometimes it is difficult, as a child or children may have to come and stay at very short notice, and there isn’t time for your family to find out everything they need to. Remember, sometimes things don’t work out as planned, so some children may stay for longer or shorter times than you were told they might.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are part of the fostering family, after all.
The most obvious change is that you will need to share your home and some of your belongings. Sometimes, children may take your things without asking, or break them. This can be very frustrating, and it is understandable that this will make you angry. Sharing is part of fostering. You may want to ask your parents if you can have a cupboard with a lock where you can keep the things you treasure the most.
It is not recommended that you should have to share a bedroom with a child who is being fostered, although sometimes it may not be possible for everyone to have their own room. It can be very difficult to share your private space, but try to remember that the fostered child does not have any space of their own, and will appreciate you making them feel welcome (even if they don’t show it!).
There are bound to be certain rules in your home that will change. This is because, as foster carers, your parent(s) have to follow certain rules set by Fostering First. There is normally a good reason for things changing, although it may not seem like it to you.
For example, you may find that it is now expected that you knock on bedroom doors before you enter. This is to show respect for other people’s privacy. Foster families may have to be strict about allowing you to watch films that have certain certificates, they don’t know whether this will upset another child.
One thing that might be a big change is that you might have to change the way you dress around the house. This might mean putting on a dressing gown if you are walking around in night clothes, for example. Again, this is to make sure everyone feels comfortable – children who come to stay might not be used to things that seem normal in your family, or it may upset them.
Ask your parent(s) what rules will change before you start fostering and ask them to explain things you are unhappy about.
The thing sons and daughters often find most difficult to deal with is when the children or young people being fostered behave in a way that you wouldn’t. This behaviour can take many forms: lying, stealing, not speaking, being violent, shouting, breaking things, bed-wetting or being ‘hyperactive’. If a fostered child is rude to your parent(s) it can be very hard to bite your tongue.
If you feel yourself getting worked up, it can help to go to your room or out of the house to calm down. Obviously, it is easier to say ‘don’t lose your temper’ than it can be to do it! It might help to remember that this behaviour is sometimes a result of fostered children being upset or frustrated about being away their family.
If you are finding things difficult to cope with, you should talk to someone. Also, if you feel uncomfortable about the way someone talks to you, or touches you, you must tell your parent(s).
It is important to remember that children in foster care are all different, just like you are different from your friends, brothers or sisters, or cousins. Some might be difficult to live with, others you will get on with well. Not everyone will annoy you!
‘Contact’ refers to the contact that a fostered child or young person has with their family and friends. How often this happens depends on a lot of things – some children will see a lot of their family, others may only see them a few times a year. It is important that they are able to stay in touch – after all, if you had to go and live somewhere else, you’d want to still be able to speak to and visit the people you know, wouldn’t you?
Some sons and daughters of foster carers find contact very stressful. It can take time for your parent(s) to organise, and may mean that you can’t do the things you want to as a family.
Also, contact can make a child who is fostered feel sad or upset, which might mean they behave badly when they come back. You may not see the point in continuing contact if it just makes them miserable. However, try to think how you would feel in that position. It would be hard to see your mum or dad and then have to leave them again, but this doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to see them.
Try to be patient about contact, and discuss anything that upsets you with your parent(s) or social worker. It may be possible to change the way things are organised to make it easier to everyone.
If your family is fostering a child who is around the same age as you, you may find that they start going to your school, or want to spend time with you and your friends. Again, try to remember that it is very difficult going to a new school and not knowing anyone, so if you can help them settle in this would really help.
If a child who is fostered by your family comes to your school, you may be asked questions about them, such as why they are staying with your family. Speak to your parents and social worker about what you should say. Sometimes it will be easier just to say you can’t talk about it, because it wouldn’t be fair on the fostered child, especially if they don’t want everyone to know all about their life. After all, how would you feel if someone went around telling everyone all about you? What if sharing that information meant they got bullied at school?
If you suspect that a child your family is fostering is being bullied, or is bullying someone else, it is really important that you tell someone. It’s best not to get involved yourself, but you must speak to your parent(s) or a teacher at school you trust. There should be a teacher at your school who will know that the child is fostered, and who will be responsible for supporting them at school. Your parent(s) should know who the teacher is.
It is important that you always feel you can talk to someone who understand, always consider speaking to your parent(s) about anything that is bothering you. After all, they are living in the same house and will probably understand best what you are going through. You could also speak to someone else within the family, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent.
There will also be a social worker that works for Fostering First who visits your family to check everything’s going okay. This person may be referred to as your ‘Supervising Social Worker’ or ‘Support Worker’. Their job is to support your family through fostering. They should speak to you during their visits. If something is bothering you, you can talk to them about it.
Sometimes a fostered child Might tell you something and ask you not to tell anyone. This might be something they have done recently (for example if they have broken something in the house) or about something that has happened to them in the past.
Sometimes it easier to trust someone who is closer to you in age that to trust an adult. Someone who is being fostered by your family may tell you something they have not told anyone else. This can be very upsetting for you, particularly if they tell you something bad that someone might have done to them in the past.
It is part of fostering that children will eventually move on. In many cases, this will be a happy event as the child will be going back to their own family, or moving to a permanent foster home. However, if you have become friends with them, or just got used to having them around, you will naturally be sad to see them go.
It may be possible to stay in touch with children who have stayed with you when they leave. Speak to your parents and the social workers to see if this can be arranged. These days it is easy to stay in touch on the phone and via email. It may also be possible for you to meet up.
Some families keep a scrapbook with photos and information about all the children who’ve been to stay with them. This is a nice way to remember people, and it can also be good to show new people who come to stay, to tell them a bit more about your family.
Such things can be difficult to listen to. If someone does start to tell you something, remember that it is not their fault that this has happened to them. Try to be supportive, but if the conversation is upsetting you, tell them that you think they should speak to an adult about this.
Don’t agree to keep secrets. This will not help the child in the long run. If you tell your parent(s) you will eventually be helping them get the support they need. You can be a good friend to them, but it is not your responsibility to cope with everything alone.
As well as your parents and Supervising Social Worker, speaking to other sons and daughters of foster carers can be very helpful. A ‘support group’ is when you can get together with other people in foster families on the island and talk about your experiences. You’ll also probably get to do some activities. This can be a really useful way of talking about what’s going on with other people who understand because they have experienced the same things. They may even be able to give you some advice on how to deal with it.