Becoming a foster carer is one of the most rewarding, exciting and life-affirming things you can do. However, despite the benefits, there’s still plenty to contemplate before making an application, including the impact it’ll have on your children and family.
Even though you may desperately want to provide care, fostering isn’t an individual decision to make. Instead, it’s a collaborative process that requires support from the whole family. When everyone’s united, it can be a hugely enriching experience that develops critical life skills such as empathy, compassion and teamwork.
As well as forming a relationship with your foster child, who may have complex needs, your family must learn to share your time and attention alongside their personal space.
Before you start your journey, it’s essential to prepare for any emotional complexities that may arise during the process. To ensure you’re in the best position possible, this post will explain the positive impact fostering can have on your family and children, potential challenges and additional support available.
The positives of fostering
Fostering is an incredibly rewarding journey when the whole family is committed to the process. What’s more, a study conducted by The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, found that 52% of foster children live with their carers after their 18th birthday, which means the positive effects, some of which we’ll explore now, are often deep-rooted and lifelong.
Children from fostering households are more likely to foster themselves
When children grow up in fostering households, they learn practical and emotional life skills that could inspire them to pursue the same path as their parents or a career in caring, nursing, mental health or social work.
They’re more likely to demonstrate desirable qualities such as patience, empathy and adaptability from a young age. Plus they may observe how the adults around them handle complex situations and challenging behaviour, which is especially beneficial when it comes to forming healthy relationships at school and in the workplace.
Foster families gain a new perspective
Best of all, the benefits work both ways. A foster child is a gift, supplying love and bundles of fun to their foster families. Alongside this, they also provide a new perspective.
Many foster children arrive from less than ideal backgrounds, and some have only ever known neglect, ill-treatment and instability. Forming a relationship with a foster child and taking the time to understand their history opens a person’s eyes to the problems many young people face across the world.
With this knowledge comes a greater understanding of social inequality, and those living in fostering families are often inspired to get involved with charities or their local community. Plus, children are likely to feel a more profound sense of gratitude for what they already have.
Children benefit from an improved sense of responsibility
Many children who grow up in fostering households understand the gravity of what their parents are doing, and the sense of responsibility that comes with caring for a vulnerable person inevitably filters down.
Older children may become more conscientious, especially if they’re actively involved in the day-to-day running of the household. By supporting their parents with cooking, homework and bedtime stories, they build a stronger sense of purpose and character.
The challenges of fostering
Benefits aside, fostering is a serious endeavour, and there will likely be challenges along the way. However, this shouldn’t deter you – the most effective way to overcome issues is to anticipate and plan for them beforehand.
Children may feel a lack of privacy and ownership
Young children and children without siblings may find it hard to share their belongings and personal space at first, leading to distress, tantrums and emotional outbursts.
While this kind of behaviour usually settles down after the transition period, it’s still a good idea to have a conversation about how the household will be changing. Have an honest discussion with your children about personal boundaries, and compromise where possible. For example, your child might be okay with sharing toys, but uncomfortable with a new person entering their bedroom.
It can be difficult for everyone when a placement comes to an end
Goodbyes are always upsetting, particularly when families have formed strong bonds with their foster children. However, it’s an inescapable part of the process, and everyone must understand that the time will come, sooner or later.
Right from the very beginning, make sure your children understand the temporary nature of fostering. This kind of honesty, however tricky to apply, will make it easier when it’s time for your foster child to move on.
Feelings of neglect
Sometimes, family members may feel neglected, jealous or confused with the arrival of a foster child. However, these feelings of hurt often result from poor communication. Loved ones might not realise how complicated the situation is or why your attention is needed elsewhere, which is why we say fostering is a collaborative process.
The most effective way to deal with this situation is to let loved ones know why you’re fostering and, where appropriate, get them involved in the process. By witnessing the fostering journey firsthand, they’ll feel less shut out and gain a greater appreciation of the energy you’re investing.
Support available for fostering families
You’re never alone as a foster carer, and there’s a wealth of support on hand to make the process as simple as possible.
Here at Olive Branch Fostering, we offer 24-hour telephone support, support groups, ongoing training and more to help you and your family with the transition. Plus, fantastic charities such as The Fostering Network provide invaluable resources specifically for children in families who foster.
Add to your family with foster care
Are you ready to change lives for the better? Then start your fostering application today. With just five steps to approval, it’s a straightforward process and we’re on hand to answer all your questions along the way.
To get started, simply contact our friendly team or talk through any questions on the phone with no obligation to go any further on 01706 558910.