There is no denying the rewards that come with fostering. Making a difference in a child’s life will resonate with them through to adulthood. But with a pre-existing family, how will fostering alter the family dynamic?
A family is an important unit of support that comes with a sense of belonging. As a foster carer, you will understand that not all children have this and as such, you and your family are prepared to welcome a child to your family set-up.
Fostering affects everyone in the household and so it is important that you take time to understand what the effects will be and how the dynamic will change.
One issue to consider is what type of placement you can offer and to who. It may seem arbitrary when there are so many children in need of fostering that we ‘pick and choose’. But in order for any fostering placement to be successful, the pieces of the jigsaw need to fit together.
Most foster carers foster children who are younger than their own children so that the position of their own children are not changed e.g. your eldest child will always be the oldest and so on.
In terms of gender, some carers opt to have the opposite gender for ‘balance’ whilst others opt for the same gender as their own children.
Your social worker can talk through the approval process and all that it entails.
As a parent, you will have standards relating to your children’s behavior, manners and so on. You probably have established routines too.
House rules apply so that your home is harmonious, safe and nurturing but when you invite a foster child into your home and family, you may find that they are reluctant to or unsure how to follow or abide by home and family rules.
It is not uncommon for some neglected children to have no concept of how to eat at a dinner table, for example, or be part of a family group. Some children can initially be withdrawn whilst others, unsure and unfamiliar with your and their surroundings, can ‘act out’.
It is important that you talk to your children about the ‘why’ of how foster children may or may not behave, how they may speak or interact with them and you.
It can be an uncertainty time for everyone welcoming a new child into the family and it is important that your children have their own outlet for talking through concerns or issues they may have.
Your social worker will be an important person in this process, as will the fostering agency too. Many agencies have support programmes specifically for the children of foster carers.
Life is a mixed bag but for children living in the sanctuary of a loving home, as they reach adulthood, they are equipped and ready to deal with the ‘big world’.
Fostering is a positive move for everyone, if everyone’s thoughts, feelings and concerns are acknowledged.
A family that fosters is one that can share and support, empathize and understand the world around them, they serve their community and understand how choices and consequences are connected.
Children in foster families also understand a range of emotions, including grief and loss. But more importantly, many children gain a foster sister or brother not just in their childhood but right through into adulthood too.
And the friendship between your own children and that of your foster children is a bond and an attachment that can – and will – make all the difference now and in the future.
Foster Care Associates Scotland are a well-established fostering agency who are currently recruiting foster families. Does your family has what it takes to welcome and nurture a foster child?