Bullying in foster care
Bullying in foster care in the UK is a significant issue. Children and young people are commonly bullied up to the age of 18, and the effects of bullying can be equally, if not more severe as the victim gets older. This is why it is important that you as a foster carer or parent spot the signs that show your child is being bullied, and deal with the issue as effectively as possible. Remember, bullying isn’t just the “stealing of lunch money”, it can be done through physical or verbal means, both of which can have devastating effects, and lead to other major problems in your childs life such as anxiety, eating disorders and depression.
The fact that children in foster care often have had more trauma in their lives than the average child makes it more likely that they will be bullied. This is because their past can make them vulnerable and/or shy, making them better targets for “bullies”. It is for this reason that foster carers must take extra care in making sure your child is not the victim of any kind of abuse. However, this isn’t always easy. Victims often feel ashamed about being bullied, meaning they will often try to hide it from others and try to make sure that no one finds out.
Why do people bully? Experts say that bullies often do what they do because they themselves feel threatened- and they pick on others to give them a feeling of power, which in turn covers up their anxiety or low self esteem.
What should foster carers look for? There are a few signs to look out for when identifying bullying. For example, a bullied child is often reluctant to talk about the subject. Victims of bullying may also go to great lengths to hide it’s evidence, I.e. they may claim to have lost possessions, or make up stories of how they injured themselves. They may also have issues with things like not eating food and not wanting to go to school .
All of these things are common symptoms of your child being bullied, and if any are spotted then the carer/parent should try and confront the child about bullying, and make a comfortable environment in which the child feels okay about sharing.
What can you do to help?
- Talk about more general issues like how much the child is enjoying lessons, or what teachers they do or don’t like. This will help the child feel okay about opening up to you and if the child is being bullied, he/she will be more likely to slip it into conversation.
- Ask your child if they would like to invite anyone over. This way, if the child is being bullied then he/she will be able to build some closer relationships out of school, which may make the bullying incidents in school far less frequent. E.g. if the child has a close friend to be with, the bully may feel outnumbered and reluctant to begin the teasing or abuse.
- Try and pick the child up from school. This way, you can observe what is happening in the playground, which may give you some clues as to if your child is being bullied, or put your mind at ease. Either way, it is a good thing to consider doing.
- If bullying is confirmed, keep a diary of the incidents. This way, the issue can effectively be taken up with the school to get it put to bed.
Bullying in schools and out of schools is far from uncommon, and happens every day. If your child or foster child is being bullied, do not worry. Try and resolve the problem either with or without the schools assistance, in a calm and friendly manner. However if the problem persists, it is strongly advised to go to the school for help, as they have all sorts of techniques and advice on offer which will help your child and get him/her back to enjoying their time around peers.
For more information and advice on bullying, visit http://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/Bullying/Pages/Bullying.aspx