fostered child Blog

Fostering Support

As a foster carer there are many times when friends and family want to help and support you but they don’t know how. You might be in the middle of a crisis and you can’t see the wood for the trees – so you cannot even begin to think what help you even need. Sometimes, well-meaning people you come across in your life ask inappropriate questions which put you in a very awkward situation.

The saying is true that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. It is a good idea to think ahead of some of the ways you need support and think through some of the answers you might give in those very awkward situations. Perhaps there should be a fact file of do’s and don’ts to give to friends and family when you start fostering!

“What can we do to help?”, is a question probably said quite genuinely and with the best of intentions, however, it often triggers a very British response. “We are ok thanks”, “we’ll let you know if we need anything”.

What we need rather than generic questions, is something more specific. When asked questions like “Can I bring you a meal?”, “Can I do some ironing” Can I help with the gardening” “Can I help you by taking your birth children to school, clubs or activities” “what paperwork needs to be filled in so that I can babysit for you”.

“Can I babysit so that you can have a break” “do you need any toys, clothes equipment for your new foster placement” there is often a very different response. It is very unlikely, however, that people will be so specific.

Therefore, we need to think ahead about what would actually help us, so that when we are asked the question (which will inevitably be vague) we have an answer at the ready. So here we go..

What can we do to help? Would you be able to bring a meal to us?
What can we do to help? Would you consider babysitting for us so that we can have a break?
What can we do to help? Would you be able to give my birth daughter a lift home from after school club?
What can we do to help? Would you be able to do some of my ironing?

Whatever it is that would help you in your situation – have an answer ready.

There, that’s not so difficult is it? The truth of the matter is – people want to help. I know that it brings me a sense of joy when I am able to help someone else. There is a blessing in helping. Therefore if we do not allow someone to help us when they ask, we are in fact denying them that joy and blessing. By letting them help we are in fact giving them joy. We are sharing the load.

So often foster carers get to the point of crisis or burn out and they haven’t even asked for help. Before you get to that point, think ahead, rehearse the answers if necessary, but don’t say you don’t need help.

There is an ancient African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child.

We are not islands, we should not be doing this job on our own, let’s include our community of family and friends so that we can get the best outcome for both our foster child and us.

For more information go to Fostering Network page.


Fostering Siblings

Fostering Siblings

When the decision has been made that Fostering is a career that you wish to pursue, the process will begin. Part of this process will be to assess as to whether you are suitable to Foster Siblings.

Fostering, of course, entails a great deal of energy, patience and enthusiasm to ensure the child’s care needs are met, so naturally this is an even greater requirement and demand in the event siblings are fostered. With this in mind, it is perhaps without surprise that Foster Carers that are willing and of course, suited to Fostering Siblings are in very high demand.

It is our duty to place Children with their siblings when considered Reasonably practicable and Consistent with their welfare in accordance with legislation.

This, however, is not always possible, whilst every effort is made to ensure they remain together, it is not always easy or even possible to find placements that are suitable. Remaining together offers many benefits but can pose it’s challenges which we will endeavour to touch upon.

Fostering Siblings – The Benefits

You may well feel that the benefits are obvious, however it is always a good idea to highlight exactly how a child or the children can be positively effected by this decision.

An immediate benefit as you could likely imagine, is an instant source of familiarity, a familiarity in an environment that is completely Alien to the children. Being able to gain reassurance from one another can be so important in a time that can prove both very stressful and difficult.

Anxiety can be prominent for any for any individual when moving to a new home, this is significantly magnified for a child who is not only moving to a new home but also amongst a whole new familial network. This is worsened when Sibling separation has occurred, a child will not only be endeavouring to harness their own concerns and anxieties regarding their immediate to long term care, they now have that added worry bout the whereabouts and wellbeing of their sibling.

Where are they? Are they scared? Are they being treated and cared for well? – Are all prime examples of potential thought processes, further adding the already anxious state. Such concerns will, of course, hinder their own efforts to settle into their new environment, their ability and want to embrace their new surroundings and the people within it.

To further exacerbate matters, Sibling Separation poses a very real risk of straining bonds should the separation be over prolonged periods, a bond that can prove so important, so integral to them when they eventually move into adulthood.

Fostering Siblings – It’s Not Always Straight Forward

Sibling placement is not always a straight forward process, the older child of the siblings, if accustomed to sibling placement may well have taken on the responsibility of carer and as such are not willing to relinquish these duties to you, the carer(s). In any fostering instance, the child’s welfare is paramount and and as such, the placement of siblings (together) does not always represent the option of care.

It is important remember that we are all individuals, we all have our views, children in care are no different. There is a very real possibility that a child has a very alternative view as to what a sibling actually is, there could be a very strong desire for the maintenance of a relationship or bond with half snd/or step sibling residing outside of care, that they wish to continue.

As you can see, there is much to consider when looking at Sibling placements, and whilst it has it’s potential challenges, it also has it’s significant benefits to the children, which in turn will return terrific rewards for them, you and your family.

Read more about sibling separation.

foster children

Parenting Vs Therapeutic Parenting

Parenting Vs Therapeutic Parenting

Foster Carer’s Experiences

For a long time we have been “parenting” our eight year old foster child, in a similar way to the way we “parented” our birth children. We know there have been slight differences – our birth children will tell you that. For a start we know that we have had much stricter boundaries with our foster child. We learnt quite early on at the age of four that she was constantly testing the boundaries, she would be on alert to see which adult she could play off against the other. We had to take the approach of working together, checking every decision with each other and backing one another up – but essentially sticking to the boundaries.

As time has gone on and the placement itself has become secure, we have never felt so insecure in our parenting skills. All the techniques we used in the early days, no longer work. Our foster child is a mastermind at control – whether it be with food, getting dressed, having a shower, doing her homework – she will find a way to control the situation. We now need a new approach, for the sake of our foster child but also for our own sanity, our birth children’s mental health and the general harmony in the household.

Sarah Naish in her book Therapeutic Parenting in a Nutshell (2016, Amazon, Produced in Association with Inspire Training Group, Part of Fostering Attachments Ltd.) offers a concise handbook explaining how therapeutic parenting works, why it is used, why it works and most importantly how to implement it. Naish very helpfully includes a quick reference chart – for those of us who have limited time to read a book, along with a list of video resources, web links, references and bibliography to other resources. She says that “by helping therapeutic parents and their supporters to gain a better understanding of therapeutic parenting, we can work more quickly and effectively towards improved outcomes for all of our children.”

We did not set out to be “therapeutic parents” but now that we have exhausted all our own parenting techniques we need to look for an alternative. Children who have experienced trauma in their lives are often wired differently. Parenting therapeutically gives the child a chance to recover from the traumas they have experienced, by developing new neurological pathways in the brain.

Naish goes on to outline how to implement therapeutic parenting by the use of empathy, routine, boundaries, playful response, conscious response and acceptance. She also very helpfully suggests methods to avoid (usually found in standard parenting techniques), these include: asking why, lengthy conversations about behaviour, over praising, avoiding surprises, spontaneity, reward charts etc.
She goes on to talk about additional techniques such as allowing the child to experience natural consequences, teaching the child to ‘show sorry’ rather than ‘saying sorry’ and ‘time in’ rather than ‘time out’.

With the exception of the time in vs time out (time out is as much for us as the child!), we are going to explore this method of parenting. We will need the support of those around us, including school and social services, if we want to get the most benefit from this technique. Naish says that “therapeutic parenting is most effective if the team around the child are on board.” It will be a whole new way of parenting and may feel like it is going against the grain of what feels natural. We hope that this new approach will give a better outcome for our foster child.