Choosing to welcome a vulnerable child or young person into your home is always going to be a family decision. As with every choice that will potentially make changes to the day-to-day operations of your household, it’s important to speak to the children who already live with you to gauge their opinions and prepare them for new family members. Involving them in the decision-making process to become a foster home, can help them feel involved and appreciated, whilst also ensuring that any child or young person that comes to live with you is welcomed with understanding and empathy. We spoke to some experienced carers to gather some advice on supporting your own children when you become a foster carer.
As you go through your Form F Assessment, the resident children in your household will be interviewed by a social worker. As a result, it’s a really good idea to introduce them to every step of the process, so they don’t experience any surprises. Alongside this, once you’ve been accepted as a foster carer, it’s a great idea to involve the children who already live in your home in helping to get their foster sibling’s room ready, choosing decorations, and bits and bobs that will help them settle in. Doing this provides a sense of connection before the child or young person arrives.
There are obviously going to be lots of questions and it’s good to talk to your resident children, explaining what fostering is, why children and young people find themselves in the care system, and that there will be a chance that there will be lots of children needing a safe space living in the spare room over the coming years. It’s also important to remind them that, even though your attention may be taken up by a child you are looking after, that they can still always come and speak to you about anything.
It’s important to remind your children that change isn’t always bad and that, while things will be different, it’s going to be ok. It’s also good to let them know that it may mean that you will be spending more time together as a family and plan some fun activities that you can all do together.
Explaining to the children in your household that anybody coming to live with you may be frightened and traumatised can improve the settling in process. Understanding that a foster child or young person might not want to talk or may have different routines can improve patience and understanding. It’s also a good plan to encourage your non-fostered children to not ask too many questions, instead letting the fostered child build up trust before they choose to share.
While being a foster carer is time consuming, there are natural moments when you can plan to spend time with your non-fostered children, for example during contact time. Planning activities together helps them to still feel valued and avoids a sense of feeling pushed aside. It also gives you something structured to look forward to as a family.
If you’re already a parent and are considering welcoming a child or young person into your family, we’d love to hear from you. Just fill out the contact form and one of our team will get in touch or feel free to email us.