Why children of foster carers are so important
We acknowledge the decision to become a foster carer involves the whole family, especially where children are part of the household. Sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in the success of fostering placements and we work with you to support your children to feel valued and part of the process, ensuring that their voice is heard.
Becoming a foster carer will inevitably have an impact on everyone living at home and therefore everyone has to be committed to fostering and understand the process. We therefore involve the whole family in the assessment process. As part of the process, we provide opportunities for children of potential foster carers to chat about their views and ask any questions.
Children of foster carers have to share their parents, their things and maybe their friends with children who are placed with their family. They may also see behaviour that they are not familiar with or may be challenged by. Despite these challenges, most foster carers say, that being part of a foster family has had a positive impact on their children and helped them to understand others better, with many children becoming foster carers later themselves or going on to work within care related professions.
One of our foster carers has stated that she feels her boys have become better informed about building relationships, that will equip them well in later years. We see evidence of tremendous empathy and communication skills in the children of our foster carers as well as a great understanding of social differences and the impact this can have on children and young people.
In one survey by fostering network a third of children said that they thought they would become foster carers when they were adults. In a review of 14 studies involving the sons and daughters of foster carers, every study showed that fostering had some positive impact on their lives.
There are challenges, however. Some children can struggle with contradictions, for example, them having to follow boundaries that some children placed in their family may struggle to follow. It’s important therefore that we enable children to discuss this and share how they feel about it. Likewise, creating the right balance in a family is challenging for foster carers too. Foster carers can experience dilemmas, as they want the best for their own children and want to make sure that they provide the best support and care for the children they foster at the same time. It’s something that must be brought in to the open as part of the assessment.
“The challenge for foster carers is in balancing the two sets of needs which may sometimes conflict.”
We recognise that the foster carers have to commit a lot of their time to fostering, this may well lead to them feeling guilty that their own children are not receiving the attention they need. This is where a foster carer’s SSW (supervising social worker) is a great support, helping our foster carers to chat with children and young people to facilitate sharing of concerns and find the best solutions.
We are committed to create opportunities for children and young people to come together with other children of foster carers, to help them to build connections with others experiencing similar things to them, and share how they feel in a safe way.
We recognise the need to truly understand the needs of our whole foster family so that we can match them well with children. This ensures the family can provide care and support for children and young people. We take into consideration the needs of foster carers children when looking at placing new children and openly discuss it with foster carers before making decisions.
Local authorities and people working with children have a duty to safeguard and to promote the welfare of all children. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child we need to evidence consultation with children about decisions that may affect them and to promote family life.
We take our actions in placing children seriously and work to avoid difficulties or challenges for other children in a household. We respect the decisions of our foster carers and listen to the views of children, building close relationships with them to make it easier for them to feel able to speak openly.
Keeping focused on the needs of children
Many people thinking about fostering have told us that they had waited until it was the right time for their own children. Many express fears associated with teenage behaviour and the impact that might have on their own younger children. As already mentioned, matching involves assessing the needs of a foster carers family as well as the needs of a fostered child. Many children coming into care benefit hugely from being part of a family with other children, perhaps experiencing the benefits of family life for the first time.
We have seen teenagers adapt to playing an older brother or sister role very quickly where there are young children already in the household. Likewise, we have seen teenagers of foster carers, take on similar roles with fostered children. The success of any placement involves matching processes and the support of foster carers children.
The reality is that many children benefit from being part of the support network offered by a fostering family to a child in care. Seeing life from another’s perspective can be an enriching experience and can help a child learn and develop as an individual.
We work to support the children of foster carers individually and in small groups with activities that can support them to meet other children from families who foster and share their experiences in a fun and safe way. This supports our foster carers to feel confident that their whole family is supported and valued.