We often describe ourselves as a family that fosters to include all family members, but I think it is easy to forget just what an important role our children play – birth children, adopted children and those staying with us long term.
Since the publication of my fostering memoirs I have received many emails and one sentiment is often repeated: how marvellous my children are, especially in coping with the sometimes aggressive and disturbed behaviour. I doubt my children - Adrian, Lucy and Paula - are any different from most other foster carer’s children in this respect. But it is nice to receive these compliments and I pass them on.
Adrian and Paula grew up with fostering and Lucy was a foster child whom I went on to adopt. They all take fostering as the norm and wouldn’t want their family any other way, which I sometimes take for granted.
Not only can the foster carer’s children offer a valuable source of encouragement and support for the looked after child, but I’ve found that often a newly arrived child will bond with - and confide in - my children before they do me. My children know they have to tell me of any disclosures so I can talk to the child and then their social worker.
Obviously I would never let my children take responsibility for a looked after child, even if the child was much younger. That is the adult carer’s role as is disciplining. But carers’ children can help encourage the child to acceptable behaviour through example, and obviously play with the child and include them in all family activities. They can also keep them entertained while the main carer has a much needed sit down.
With the long summer holidays now with us it is a golden opportunity to spend time together as a family and cement bonds. Being allowed to look after someone else’s child(ren) is a very special and precious gift, but it also carries huge responsibility. I am grateful – as I am sure other carers are – to have the support and input of my children.
I hope you have a truly wonderful summer.
Sons and Daughters Month: Celebrating the Foster Family is The Fostering Network’s annual campaign, each October, to celebrate the vital contribution which the children of foster carers make to successful foster care.