Fostering is a transformative journey for foster children, carers and their families. Despite a treasure chest of benefits, including personal growth and changing a life for the better, there are a few hurdles to overcome.
Before making an application to be foster carer, it’s essential to understand the complex needs of children in care, how fostering might affect your family and the impact of fostering on everyone involved. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to thoroughly prepare for the transition and beyond. So, let’s get started.
How does being in care impact foster children?
As you read through the following, keep in mind that every child enters the foster system for different reasons. Some may need short-term care while a parent manages an illness, while others have suffered from extreme abuse and neglect. Consequently, the impact of fostering varies – a child who knows they’re loved will have a very different experience from one with severe trauma.
Effects of foster care on education
When a child’s worried about their next meal or afraid of violence, they don’t have the headspace to think about homework. Consequently, many enter care with educational delays and need extra help to catch up with their peers.
Thankfully, once a child is taken out of a toxic environment and placed in a loving home, they can start to thrive. Foster care facilitates learning by collaborating with teachers, social workers and counsellors to offer a comprehensive support package.
Interestingly, studies show that children in long-term care achieve better grades than those in short-term care, emphasising the importance of continuity and familiarity.
Effects of foster care on psychological wellbeing
Being in foster care can feel simultaneously life-saving and scary for children, and it takes time to unpick these challenging emotions. Children may experience some psychological effects of being in foster care, including feelings of anger, grief and betrayal. In fact, research shows that foster children tend to have more mental and physical health issues caused by pre-care events and removal from the family home, than others their age.
As a result, throughout a foster placement, social workers work hard to help carers promote a child’s psychological wellbeing. Over time, this means that children are often able to adopt healthier coping mechanisms and behavioural patterns, which will serve them well into teenagerhood and beyond.
Effects of foster care on social development
Without a doubt, having a brand-new and invested support network dramatically improves a foster child’s social interactions. Although they might struggle to form attachments initially, they eventually realise they can trust and rely on their new family members.
Ultimately, foster families provide an example of how to communicate appropriately. Children learn to share toys, express themselves verbally and resolve conflict by following a carer’s lead. All the positives are absorbed and assimilated, assisting children in forming healthy relationships at home and school. In this way, the effects of growing up in foster care can be extremely positive.
How does fostering impact birth children?
Fostering is a collaborative process, and the feelings of birth children are equally as important and must be taken into consideration.
Thankfully, welcoming a foster child is usually very exciting for foster siblings. Not only do they have a new playmate and companion, but they realise just how different life can be and gain an emotional maturity far beyond their years. Some children from fostering families even enter the caring profession as adults, as they appreciate the significance of the role and aspire to continue their parents’ selfless legacy.
With that said, happy placements depend on all family members agreeing, and some birth children are cautious of a new arrival. They might worry about being left out or having to change the way they behave to accommodate a foster child’s needs. If this happens, we suggest honest communication – the goal isn’t to change their minds, but to listen to any concerns and offer support.
How does fostering impact carers?
Being a foster carer is an overwhelmingly rewarding experience. Alongside making a difference in a child’s life, there’s unlimited potential for personal and professional development. However, it can also be daunting, which is why it’s important to manage burnout and stress levels.
Many carers report an expanse in consciousness as they become more empathetic to different circumstances and worldviews – deep reservoirs of compassion build, enhancing every relationship and conversation. Then, it’s profoundly moving to observe an unconfident young person blossom into a self-assured and actualised individual.
As for workplace skills, local authorities and agencies offer a wealth of training to keep carers up-to-date with best practices. Some courses are mandatory, whereas supplementary classes might tackle domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and long-term neglect. Everything learnt is transferable and valuable in professions like teaching, coaching and counselling.
Managing burnout and stress-levels
A challenge that many foster carers encounter is effectively managing their energy levels. Burnout is common and shouldn’t be cause for shame or embarrassment.
Putting so much effort and time into a young person often means carers neglect their own basic needs. Thankfully, support workers are on hand to assist if you begin to feel run down, tired or unmotivated. There’s plenty of ways they can relieve the burden, like employing a respite carer to take care of a foster child while you have a much-deserved rest.
Many carers also benefit from accessing informal support groups. The sessions allow individuals to share their thoughts, feelings and emotions in safe surroundings, free from judgement and expectations. Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to make like-minded friends, socialise and learn from experienced mentors.
Help a child thrive with Olive Branch Fostering
At Olive Branch Fostering, we’re committed to you. With plenty of support available and advice on how to minimise the impact on your own family, we’ll make sure you’re thoroughly prepared for the journey ahead. Every step of the way, you’ll be able to access a helping hand that will guide you in transforming the life of a young, vulnerable person.
If you’re ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime, contact our friendly team or call us on 01706 558910. There’s no obligation to go any further, and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.