The Impact of Fostering for a Birth Child
Foster care provides support, love and stability for the growing number of children in public care, giving them a positive experience of family life. To ensure a successful placement, foster children need to find stability within the foster family. That includes establishing positive relationships with the foster parent’s birth children.
As families are increasingly made up of various combinations of relationships, with step-children and parents, half brothers and sisters, providing equal amounts of care and love as more traditional families, we often learn to love, at a very young age, with people not necessarily linked to us by blood.
Benefits of fostering for birth children
When a family experiences the transformation to a family who fosters, there will be many changes in family relations and general family life. Most sons and daughters state that they are happy fostering and recognise the benefits of the experience. There is evidence that some sons and daughters go on to become foster carers themselves or enter the caring professions. Living with foster children and being aware of the difficulties other children face provides a greater level of maturity and compassion. It enhances social understanding, empathy and important social and life skills that prepare children for adulthood.
Many birth children also gain companionship, friendship and a sense of self worth in sharing their homes and themselves with children who need them. Some report enjoying helping to look after a baby or toddler, or the attention of an older young person whom their family is fostering. Birth children play a vital role in helping foster children adjust to their new environment. They can become a mentor-figure or a surrogate brother or sister helping a foster child to settle into their new home and school and meet new friends.
Of course, being a birth child within a fostering family also involves many challenges and some experiences may be difficult to handle. There is often pressure to act as a good role model for the foster children. Some sons and daughters may be asked to look after a foster child at the expense of their own relationships with their friends. In certain situations they may feel that fostered children do not receive the same disapprobation that they would receive, leading to feelings of ‘it’s one rule for them and another for us’. By far the biggest challenge for birth children is the ability to ‘share’ their parents with other children that are not siblings.
Each fostered child and each carer’s child is an individual and their characteristics will influence how fostering is experienced and the relationship between them. However there are many ways to promote the experience for everyone involved. As a foster carer it is important to involve your family in the initial fostering process; asking for your own children’s opinions and involving them in family discussions. Inform your children about the nature of fostering; both the positive and negative aspects to give them a full picture. It is important to balance the needs of birth children and foster children and where possible allocate special time for your birth children, so they don’t feel inadequate. Talking openly and ensuring children feel comfortable discussing their feelings is key to a happy house and making it a positive experience for all. When a foster placement is coming to an end, prepare your children for this as they can establish close relationships and find it hard to let go.
If you have been thinking about becoming a Foster Carer but are worried about the impact this may have on your birth children then please contact us and we can guide you through to making the best decision for your family.