Welcoming a foster child into your home can be a life-changing experience for the foster child and your entire family, including your own children. By providing a safe, loving and stable home for a child in need, you can teach your children about empathy, compassion, and compromise while giving a vulnerable child a chance at a brighter future. But is fostering right for your family?
Let’s explore the benefits and challenges of fostering and some tips for helping both the foster child and your own children settle in.
How can fostering a child be beneficial to your family?
One of the most significant benefits of fostering is the opportunity to make a positive difference in a child’s life. Providing a nurturing and stable environment can help a child heal from past traumas and develop a sense of belonging and security.
Foster care can bring several benefits to the biological children of foster carers and they often report the experience as both rewarding and challenging. Fostering can be a positive experience for your own children and an opportunity for them to learn important life skills:
Learning to share
Sharing is an invaluable life skill that helps kids form bonds and friendships. Learning to share space, possessions, and relationships is a big part of becoming a foster family. Fostering creates an excellent opportunity for your kids to practise sharing and develop social skills.
Building strong bonds and lifelong relationships
Fostering can lead to the formation of deep and meaningful relationships between the foster child and a carer’s biological child. It is heartening to see foster children being accepted by birth children, but it’s even more special when close friendships are formed. These relationships may continue beyond the foster child’s placement and provide a lasting source of support and companionship.
Living with a child who has experienced significant trauma can teach birth children a lot about empathy. They can learn to be more understanding and considerate of others, which gives them enhanced social skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Embracing diversityBecoming a foster family will expose your children to people from all walks of life. This can help them become more accepting of others and embrace diversity rather than fear it. The exposure to different cultures, traditions and perspectives can enhance the biological child’s cultural understanding and appreciation for diversity.
Is short-term and respite care a good way to introduce my children to the idea of being a foster family?
Short-term and respite care can be wonderfully rewarding for families with children. Welcoming a foster child into your home for a short period allows your children to develop empathy and understanding for others without a long-term commitment.
Short-term and respite care can also help your children understand the challenges that people from different backgrounds face and can give your family a chance to explore the idea of long-term fostering while gaining valuable experience.
However, it is crucial to be mindful of how short-term changes may be disruptive for your children.
What is likely to change for my child when I become a foster carer?
Bringing a foster child into your family will be a big adjustment, not just for them but for the whole family. Your own children can also face difficulties when sharing their home.
Sharing space, attention and resourcesYour birth children may find it difficult to share their belongings, space, food, and especially you as their parent. They may have less personal space and decreased time with you, as the foster child may initially require significant connection and care in the early days.
If you are fostering a child with a different religious or ethnic background, it is important to respect and celebrate their cultural identity. This may involve praying, eating different foods, or wearing certain clothing. Your children may struggle to understand these differences, making it difficult for the foster child to feel accepted. As a foster carer, it is your responsibility to explain these differences to your children and help them embrace diversity.
Inconsistency and sense of loss
When a placement ends, your children may experience a sense of loss and struggle with the inconsistency of having different foster siblings come and go. It is important to explain the possible outcomes of fostering at the start of your journey, so your children know they may have multiple foster siblings over time.
Witnessing challenging behaviour
Many children in care have experienced trauma, which can lead to challenging behaviour. It is not uncommon for a foster carer’s biological child to find this difficult to understand and cope with. As a foster carer, it is important to model positive behaviour and set clear boundaries for all children in your home. Biological children will need emotional support from their parents to navigate and cope with the behavioural struggles of foster children.
Disruptions to routines
Foster care may often bring about some disruption to family routines and dynamics. Biological children may need to adjust to new schedules and expectations in the home. These disruptions may cause emotional stress and feelings of instability.
While fostering a child can present challenges, the rewards can be immense. Providing a safe and loving home for a vulnerable child can bring your family closer together and teach your children about empathy, compassion, and resilience. Fostering requires patience, flexibility, and a willingness to learn and adapt, but with the right support system in place, the experience can be transformative for both the foster child and your family.
Tips for settling in
How can you help both the foster child and your own children settle into the new rhythm of family life? Here are a few tips:
- Open Communication: It’s important for foster carers to communicate and involve their biological children in the foster care process, ensuring they receive support and guidance Encourage them to help decorate the foster child’s room, make welcome cards, or plan activities together.Encourage your children to ask questions and share their feelings, and be prepared to provide support and reassurance.
- Set clear expectations: It is important to establish clear expectations for behaviour, chores, and family rules. This can help the foster child feel more secure and prevent conflicts with your own children.
- Be patient: Fostering is a process, and it takes time for everyone to adjust. Be patient and understanding, and do not expect everything to be perfect right away.
- Respect boundaries: It is important to respect the foster child’s boundaries and privacy, and to teach your own children to do the same. Make sure everyone understands the importance of respecting each other’s personal space and belongings.
- Dedicate time for your birth children: While fostering requires full-time attention, it is crucial to make time for one-on-one interaction with your biological children to avoid feelings of exclusion within the family dynamic.
- Seek support: Fostering can be challenging, and it is important to have a strong support system in place. The team at Centacare is here to support Foster Carers 24/7, and your dedicated support worker will catch up with you regularly to see how everyone is settling in and if extra support is required. You can also join our network of other foster families and support groups for help or advice.
Fostering can be a rewarding and life-changing experience for both the foster family and the foster child. It can teach your own children about empathy, compassion, and compromise, and provide a safe and loving home for a child in need. However, it is important to carefully consider whether fostering is right for you and your family and to have a strong support system in place. With patience, understanding, and open communication, you can help both the foster child and your own children settle in and thrive.