Supporting sons and daughters in their fostering role

During sons and daughter month, we are celebrating all that they offer to their parents in their role in foster families. There is limited research in their area, but the fostering network wrote a policy paper in 2008 entitled “supporting sons and daughters of foster carers”. This paper highlighted the following which we thought may be of interest to you.

We recognise that the sons and daughters of foster carers are a key component of the success of a placement and, therefore, are key to promoting positive outcomes for children in foster care. Most sons and daughters state that they are happy fostering and recognise the benefits of this for all. A proportion of sons and daughters go on to become foster carers themselves or enter the caring professions and many feel that fostering enhances their social understanding, empathy and skills.

However, sons and daughters also report that the role involves substantial challenges for them and that some of their experiences are negative or difficult to handle. Foster carers can also find that fostering is not without its challenges for them as parents. They want the best for their sons and daughters and also want to give of their best to the children they foster. They feel that fostering is positive for their sons and daughters but they also sometimes feel guilty when their time and attention is focussed primarily on the needs of the children they foster.

For most sons and daughters of foster carers, their relationships with fostered children has positive aspects as they gain companionship, friendship and a sense of self-worth. Helping to look after a baby or toddler, or the attention of an older young person whom their family is fostering is also positive. Where sons and daughters see fostered children benefiting from and appreciating what their family has to offer, they find this satisfying.

Where sons and daughters have formed a close relationship with children who are fostered it can be very hard for them to see these children move on. Other difficulties include sons and daughters feeling responsible for helping the child to adjust to the family’s expectations and rules, feeling that they have less privacy and having their belongings taken or broken. Some sons and daughters have also been exposed to difficult information, either through a child disclosing to them, or by having contact with the foster child’s birth family

Many foster families value the chance to have time ‘just as a family’ so that parents can focus on their sons and daughters. Some families choose to do something together when the child they are looking after is on a contact visit or at an activity. Where families foster young children, older sons and daughters see the time when the child is in bed as their family time.

In their research, the fostering network found that where children and young people are part of a group for sons and daughters they usually report that they feel listened to, valued and as though their opinion counts. Individual relationships can also be very helpful too. It is for this reason that AFA runs its own ‘fostering friends’.

When the fostering network completed their Policy Paper, they made the following recommendations to government:

1.1 Commission research on the long-term impact of, and contribution to, fostering of sons and daughters, foster carers and fostered children.

1.2 Strengthen the regulations, guidance and standards that govern how agencies work with and support the sons and daughters of foster carers, in order to ensure that the views and welfare of sons and daughters are taken into account throughout the fostering experience. This includes:

– during the assessment process, and whenever possible before making a placement

– how panels and decision-makers take sons and daughters into consideration in making their recommendations and decisions

– when decisions are made about placing children

– ensuring that sons and daughters have the opportunity to express and contribute their views to the foster carer’s annual review.

1.3 Introduce a requirement on fostering services to provide a range of services that offer appropriate and consistent levels of support and advice and training to the sons and daughters of foster carers, providing the necessary toolkit to help them do this and make sure that inspectorates satisfy themselves that fostering services meet this requirement

1.4 Ensure that inspectorates recognise the valuable perspective that sons and daughters can provide on the quality and nature of the fostering service, and take account of the views of sons and daughters when inspecting services

1.5 Consider the contribution of sons and daughters to foster care and the impact of foster care on sons and daughters when agreeing frameworks for post qualification awards for social workers

1.6 Ensure that social workers’ training includes a focus on the sons and daughters of foster carers, their contribution to fostering and the impact that fostering has on their lives.

AFA are doing our best to try to ensure that we are following these recommendations to bring about good practice in our agency.

If you have any ideas of how we can provide additional support, or would like to help us in doing so, please contact us.

If you wish to read the Policy Paper in more detail, please click on this link

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