Fostering a child is a big decision to make, not just for yourself, but for the whole family, too. From taking in the foster child on a temporary basis to long term fostering, there are a lot of factors foster parents have to consider when starting their own fostering journey. For a parent or couple who already have a birth child or children, questions often arise about how the move will affect them, along with the family dynamics.
The birth children of foster carers may go through a whole remit of emotions that should be considered before placement, and it’s important to ensure the well-being of both the foster child, and your own throughout this process.
While there might be some challenges that birth children will face, fostering a child can also provide many positives for them, which in many situations can outweigh any challenges. Examples of positive impacts include:
For the birth child, it is a great way for them to be able to gain maturity by having a foster child join their family. This experience would allow them to meet children from different cultures, ages groups and backgrounds, which will hugely broaden their world view and enhance their maturity levels.
Your child will be able to see the benefits of sharing in a loving and supportive environment. This could be especially relevant if the birth child is an only child – as this will be a great life lesson for them.
With such a vast variety of placements that you may get by fostering, it will be a chance for you all to meet children from all walks of life. This variety and learning how to make relationships with others is a key life skill which will be invaluable for your birth and foster child. It will also be a chance for them to make new friends and learn that sometimes they aren’t always going to be in your life, but they make life richer all the same!
Similar to making relationships with others, there are also social skills that your child can learn through having a foster child in their home. From learning about cultural differences, behavioural differences and social skills/situations that you need to be able to live with others, this can be a great technique for life they can learn.
However, there are a few factors that may arise that could disrupt the home environment which are important to look out for.
It may be difficult for your birth child to understand the notion that the foster child may not be on placement with you for a long period of time. It’s important to talk to them about how they have joined your family and let them know that they are still part of the family, and won’t be leaving too.
Fostering a child can bring a lot of inconsistency to the family – such as a difference in ages, how long they will stay with the family, and the different cultures and backgrounds they have experienced beforehand. Try and talk to your child about why it’s important they are with you and explain how they can also talk to their peers about different children being a temporary part of their home life.
Your foster child may be from a very different background, religion or culture which can be a challenge for your birth child to fully understand. It’s important as a foster carer to allow the foster child to maintain this culture, while also showing your birth child who may never have experienced these, that while there are differences, they can be accepted – and the world is an exciting and diverse place.
If your foster child is reunified with their birth family, or moved to a more permanent situation, saying goodbye can be difficult for the whole family, and especially painful for your children as they may have become attached. It’s important to talk to your children about this process in an age-appropriate way and tell them that they can keep photographs of them. You may also be able to have the option to request continued contact with them.
This is a difficult side of fostering for birth children – not only will they likely have to share their toys and belongings, but also their time, care and attention of their parents. Time must be given throughout the fostering process to both foster child and birth child to help them feel secure and loved, and part of a stable environment.
As your child grows, you will notice that they naturally start to mimic their friends from school or older siblings. So, it will be no surprise that they may start to mimic the behaviour of the foster child, good and bad. They may witness inappropriate behaviour brought about because of the foster child’s difficult up-bringing. This may be in the form of bad language, attitude and having a lower level of respect for adults. It is important, therefore, for parents to speak to their child about this and explain why the behaviour is not correct and monitor this carefully from the beginning.
Although it may not be reasonable to expect that your child and the foster child will not always get along, it’s important to help them nurture these relationships. It’s also crucial to talk to your child about the hardships that the foster child has been through and the reason they are on placement with you, so you can nurture this relationship together.
It is also important to ensure your birth child’s good behaviour is maintained during the foster care placement. From mimicking to other inappropriate behaviour, it is vital that you address any of these problems early, but also calmly. It’s important to discuss with your child why they may be behaving in that way and also the reasons they are not allowed to copy it.
Strong communication in life is always key, but it’s extra important to always talk to your child on both the run up to the placements, and during. Let them know what will be happening and how it could affect the home, but not their relationship with you. You can talk through with them how they can share their belongings, make sure they know that they have a loving stable home, and your time, while shared, will be very important to you.
If you want to find out more about fostering a child, learn how to apply to become a foster carer today. Or if you would like further expert advice about fostering a child, our team are always on hand to help.
If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
An experienced fostering advisor from your local area will then be in touch.