When you become a foster carer, it’s important to note that this decision will not only have an impact on you and your partner, if applicable, but it will also involve the whole family. There are many foster carers who foster children when they already have birth children living in the family home – so it’s fair to question whether fostering will affect your children.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide which focusses on children who foster with their family – and, as a foster parent, how you can ensure the well-being of your birth children just as much as your foster child.
Impact of fostering on birth children – challenges
Some of the challenges that foster parents may face when bringing a new child into the home environment include:
- Sharing – some birth children may find it difficult to share their belongings, as well as their parents time and affection. A lot of time and dedication must go into the fostering process, as the young child in care must feel in a secure, stable environment.
- Behaviour mimicking – your birth children may witness inappropriate behaviour from the foster child, and may believe this is acceptable and begin to mimic them. As foster children may have had more difficult upbringing, they may suffer from behaviour problems, meaning that they have a lower level of respect for adults, which your children may mimic.
- Culture – it’s possible that you might foster a child from a different religion or culture, which could be a challenge for birth children. As a foster carer, it’s important to help the foster child maintain their cultural identity – but if this is something your birth children have no experience in, they may not want to participate or understand.
- Inconsistency – part of being a foster carer involves a variety of different fostering placements. This can provide inconsistency to your birth children – which could lead to them being questioned by peers as to why they have different children living with them frequently.
Impact of fostering on birth children – benefits
However, there are also many positive attributes that can be gained for birth children having foster children in their home. These include:
- Learning to share – similar to the point above, if the birth child is an only child, they may not have had to contend with the notion of sharing yet in life. Sharing their time and belongings with a foster child is a great life lesson for them – and will help them develop into more of a selfless person as they grow up.
- Learning from them – as established, the foster child is likely to be from a different upbringing or background, or even religion and culture, than your birth children. This provides a great opportunity for them to learn and educate themselves from them – whether that’s from a social standpoint or religiously and culturally.
- Relationships – spending so much time together under the same roof can allow for great friendships to blossom between your birth children and your foster child.
- Development of social skills – with the variety of placements you’re likely to experience as a foster carer, your birth children will get the chance to meet many young people from different walks of life – and develop their social skills as they do.
How to maintain your birth children’s well-being during a foster placement
For children who foster with their family, it’s important that as a parent, you ensure you’re doing everything possible to alleviate any concerns or issues that could arise from a placement. A few ways of doing this include:
- Communication – before you begin fostering, explain to your birth children what fostering will entail, and how it will affect them. Explain that it’s likely you’ll have a number of foster placements over the next few years, and this may provide some inconsistency to your birth children. You also need to devise a plan with them about how they will share their belongings, and how you will share your time between them. If they understand early on that they’ll need to learn to share, they’re likely to adapt to the situation much faster.
- Behaviour management – nipping bad behaviour in the bud (in the form of mimicking) is integral to ensure your birth children’s good behaviour is maintained. Explain that the foster child might be suffering from social and emotional problems that cause them to act out in a way that’s inappropriate – and they are not allowed to copy their behaviour.
- Relationship management – ensuring your foster child and birth children get along is not always possible in every placement. However, it’s your job to facilitate that this relationship has the best chance of blossoming as it can. Explain to your birth children the hardship that these the foster child has been through, and encourage them to play together, talk and get along as a family.
It’s important to recognise that the birth children of foster carers’ wellbeing will always be paramount, and as your independent fostering agency, we’ll work closely with you to ensure we facilitate an appropriate match between a foster child and your own family.
For more information on how to protect children who foster or the impact of fostering on birth children, get in touch with a member of our expert team for helpful tips and advice.