You know your own children better than anyone and know how best to support them. Making sure they are happy and comfortable with welcoming new children into the family is vital.
Children who are part of a family who foster may need some extra support. We would like to share a few thoughts and reminders to help you provide the best support possible for your sons and daughters.
It is really important that your sons and daughters have a chance to have their say about children who may come and stay with you. Sometimes if placements are made in an emergency, this can be difficult. However, having discussions with them about the type of child who may come would help in these situations.
Information about the child
Although you must adhere to confidentiality, it may be important to share some basic information with your children, particularly if there are implications for safe caring. Make sure your children are equipped to appropriately answer questions from their friends and peers about new children in your household.
It is really important that your children have a chance to have a say during your annual review. Your Placement Manager will provide them with a feedback form to fill in. They will also talk to them about their experiences and offer support when needed.
It can be very difficult for sons and daughters when foster children move on, particularly when it is unexpected. It’s, therefore, important that you discuss when placements will be ending. Your Placement Manager can offer support with these conversations if you feel that would be helpful.
Space as a family
It is important to use any opportunity to gain individual time with your son or daughter as well as your fostered children. It can be tricky finding a balance where each child in the family is given the right attention and support. If you are struggling, at all, with finding this balance make sure you speak to your Placement Manager.
Ensure that your children are fully informed of the support that is on offer to them, through fostering friends, from your Placement Manager and from other people at AFA.
It is good if you can encourage your sons and daughters to contribute to support groups or take part in other events or networking opportunities for children in fostering families.
However, we want to stress that receiving support and engaging in these activities and groups is not compulsory – they’re there to take advantage of as and when someone needs it.
We run a children consultation group three times a year and we have several sons and daughters from fostering families in this group. They help to bring about changes in the approach that we have to services. If your child is interested in taking part, please speak to your Placement Manager.
How are the sons and daughters in our foster families getting on?
We have received some great feedback from our carers about how their children are getting on with fostering. We would like to share and celebrate how well they are doing:
“She’s fantastic with the babies. She sits and plays and she helps out. She gives me a hug when I need one. She picks up on things and is sensitive to others. She lets us know what is going on”
“She’s a referee and helps when the others argue. She’s their soul mate. She will defend them to the hilt and they will defend her to the hilt. She follows the others in doing the right things. She’ll let the others help her too. She is like our ‘big brother’ – she can go and check on them and keep an eye on them.”
“He is great with the babies. He picks them up and sits them on his knee or sits on the floor playing with them. He got on with J but was scared of M. K was like a big sister. He has seen people in the home from 2 days old to 34 years and he adapts to who is in the house”
“she is a mother hen. She changes his nappies or feeds him. She also gets him dressed. She still asks to see K. She knows when to stay out of the way”
“she sits and plays with him and kisses him. She wants to do what the older ones do even when she can’t.”
“She’s my backbone. She’s the strong one. They are as thick as thieves and get on really well together. She helps in general with what I need her to do. She was fantastic with the babies. She spent hours helping them develop and was so patient. She is 100% support for me.”
Advice for children and young people living with foster children
Your children may have questions that you’re not able to answer. This section aims to provide some advice and helpful information to any questions they may have.
Who can I talk to?
What do I do if I am upset or angry?
The first thing is to remember that is it ok to feel this way. Everyone feels upset and angry sometimes, and you will probably find your own ways to deal with these feelings. You might find that you need to take some time to yourself to calm down, or you might want to share your feelings with someone else and talk them through.
Who can I talk to?
It is important that you always feel you can talk to someone who understands. Always consider speaking to your parent/s about anything that is bothering you. You could also speak to someone else within your family, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent.
Your Placement Manager will visit your family to check everything’s going okay. Their job is to support your family with fostering. They will speak to you during their visits so, if something is bothering you, talk to them about it.
AFA runs a special group for sons and daughters of foster carers called ‘Fostering Friends’. We meet up a few times a year. This is a chance for you to get to know other children or young people who foster and to talk about what it means to you. It is also a chance to have fun and to help AFA learn how best to support you and your family.
Sharing Secrets with Foster Children
Sometimes a fostered child might tell you something and ask you not to tell anyone. This might be to do with something they have done recently or about something that has happened to them in the past.
What do I do?
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.
Dealing with children moving on
What happens when fostered children leave?
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, moving on to a permanent foster home, moving in with new adoptive parents or moving into their own place. 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.
Dealing with things that annoy you
Often it can be difficult to deal with the way fostered children or young people behave. They may act out or say things in ways you wouldn’t. If a foster child is rude to your parent/s, for example, it can be very hard to not say anything.
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 way from their own family.
If you are finding things difficult to cope with, you should talk to someone. Especially if you feel uncomfortable about the way someone talks to you, or acts around you. Make sure you tell your parent/s if this is the case.
How to answer questions about a foster child
What do I say?
If a child who is fostered by your family comes to your school you may be asked questions about them. People may want to know why they are staying with your family. Speak to your parents and Placement Manager about what you should say in these situations. Sometimes it will be easier just to say that you can’t talk about it.
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 who you trust.
There will be a teacher at your school who will know that the child is fostered and who will be responsible for supporting them at school. Ask your parent/s who the teacher is incase you need to talk to them.
What to expect when a foster child joins the 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 children may have to come and stay at very short notice. There may not be time for your family to find out everything they would want 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.
Having someone new come to stay with your family will probably mean lots of changes for you – some will be good, and some you may not be happy about it at first.
One of the biggest changes is that you will have to share not just your home and belongings, but also your parents, family and possibly your friends. This can be difficult and will take a little time to adjust.
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 that you treasure the most.
It’s not uncommon for fostered children to demand a lot of attention. This could leave you feeling a bit left out. If this is the case, speak to your mum or dad about it.
Don’t forget that just because your parents are spending a lot of time looking after another child, this doesn’t mean that they care about you any less.
There are bound to be certain rules in your home that will change. This is because, as foster carers, your parents have to follow certain rules set by AFA. There is normally a good reason for things changing, although it may not seem like it at first.
Ask your parents what rules will change before you start fostering, and ask them to explain anything you are unhappy about.
AFA works hard to support all of the children of foster carers and to make sure that they are recognised for the important part that they play.
Fostering involves the whole family. Lots of families foster, and the experience is different for everyone. It is important that you know what is going on and who is coming to stay. You should ask questions if you are unsure about anything.
Having someone new come and live with you will have a huge impact on your life. Although your parents 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 home. Fostering is very much something the whole family are involved in.
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 from their own homes, and the people that they know, which can be 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.