Children in Care

family feetDay 33 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge.

“Children living in care are more likely to have problems with their mental health than children who aren’t in care, in fact, they are 4 times more likely than their peers to have a mental health difficulty.  And if we don’t help children and young people early enough then these problems can get worse”.  (NSPCC)

Today, an amazing family share their story of fostering…

Fostering

Fostering wasn’t something we’d always wanted to do, despite the example of my grandparents who fostered for decades, along with bringing up their own 7 children. We admired others who did it but it wasn’t for us.

We were a family of five with a busy household. Slowly however,  due to a few signs that we couldn’t ignore, we found ourselves enquiring about fostering and pushing doors. The more we considered fostering with our local county council and reading books and articles we thought it maybe something we could do as a family. The whole family had to be in agreement, as bringing another child or sibling group into your home is not something you would or should do lightly. We are a close knit family and we wouldn’t choose to do anything that would knowingly upset the balance. If one of our family members was unsure or against the decision we wouldn’t have gone any further.

The process was thorough but justified. Everything from our childhood, family backgrounds, network of support, marriage and family values were looked at. How we deal with stress, our health was assessed, DBS checks done, family and friends interviewed on our suitability and our children’s teachers contacted. It wasn’t until further on in the process that we realised why everything needed to be so thorough.

You are not just welcoming a vulnerable, scared, needy child into your lives to love and protect, but you will be stretched, tested, pushed to your limits. It will highlight things that you hadn’t considered about your own upbringing or personality, positive as well as negative.

There will no doubt be trauma that the child is dealing with and attachment issues, health problems and possible past triggers leading to linked behaviour. Social worker visits, meetings with your family placement social worker, training days, annual reviews, PEP meetings, contact with birth family and aftermath of that. Possible court dates leading to either preparation for the child to be returned to their family or possibly an adoption process started.

Fostering takes over every moment and opens your eyes to things in society that you normally do not have to think about. It’s paramount to continue to communicate, to protect your marriage, plan date nights (with approved sitters if needed),  take time out with your own children, keep up your friendships and cultivate hobbies. Try to keep open and honest with everyone around you.  You need to be in a good place to cope with everything that comes with fostering.

Fostering is more rewarding than we could have imagined and it is also is that hardest thing we have done so far. It affects everyone, your marriage, family life, your broader family, friendships and wider circles. It is only now that we are having time ‘resting’ as a family that we realise how much fostering these precious, wonderful children impacted our lives in every way.

What’s the hardest thing about fostering? 

The hardest thing about fostering is that it changes your whole life. The child more than likely will express challenging behaviour. They are likely to have experienced trauma from leaving their home environment. You are strangers to them and everything is new. There are new ways of managing behaviour that you need to apply when caring for looked after children. You are forever learning and growing as a person. There are many meetings and lots of paperwork as well as training days. It takes planning to have an evening out as a couple. You never know how long a placement will last; it could last a few days or many years. You give everything whilst knowing that the placement will come to an end one day and you will have to say goodbye.

What difference does a loving family make to the children you look after?

To a child who cannot be with their birth family due to illness, separation, grief, abuse, neglect or other circumstances, you as foster carers can offer, even for a short time, a place of safety, acceptance, a listening ear, fun, new experiences and love. Research shows if children attach to their primary care givers i.e. foster carers, they are more likely to attach again to others in the future. This can have a positive impact on all future relationships. In this respect you have a chance to change the future for this child or children. To know they are accepted as they are, and helped to understand why they behave in certain ways, can help a child learn how to manage his feelings and actions more successfully.  Praise is so important and can help combat a child’s low self esteem and allows confidence to soar.

What is the most rewarding thing about fostering?

The most rewarding thing about fostering is being able to make a real difference to others. You are providing security and love, opening up your home, as well as giving your time and capacity to a child or children who maybe haven’t experienced things we take for granted. We have grown as a family and individuals, and our own children are more aware of other’s experiences and that has probably made them appreciate their own childhood more. It’s amazing to see a child begin to trust you and flourish, and to be able to encourage them to reach their true potential. Fostering has affected every part of our life.  We have made lots of friends in the fostering community, with which we can share the highlights and trials of the day or week. Our children also have an opportunity to connect with other children who foster. The rewards of fostering are far greater than we could have imagined when we were first approved.

 

For more info on becoming a foster carer, click here: 

http://www.homeforgood.org.uk

https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers/becoming-a-foster-carer

 

 

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