As a Foster carer there is a strong likelihood that your birth children will play a major part in the success or otherwise of a placement. As a married Foster Carer I had two birth children in situ which worked well with some placements and not so well with others. I honestly thought that having a house with all the children roughly the same age would be a bonus, shared and interests etc, but it didn’t always work that way. Shared interests sometimes led to a bit of conflict and a few issues that had to be resolved by discussion and understanding each other’s point of view. I always found that having children in placement who were younger than my birth children worked better. I was amazed how my own kids reacted to having babies and toddlers in the house and how protective and proactive they suddenly became with them. A teenager who was your typical boy, who expected to be waited on hand and foot, was found cuddling and comforting a crying six month old and succeeding. After placements ended it was interesting to see their reaction. With babies and toddlers they seemed a lot more emotional than with some of the older children, who they seemed quite relieved they were moving on. I found that lots of communication, chats and meetings, when placements started were hugely beneficial. Shared meal times, sat up to the table, were also a good way of gauging relationships and how everybody was integrating. Shared meal times are very overlooked and have great value. We would ask each young person, individually, how their day had gone and whether they had any issues. This was a great way to break the ice and get everybody to talk and be heard.
The most difficult times, with the placements we had, were after contact where the young people, in placement, were highly emotional and not great company. We had to be creative in how to deal with the post contact issue and my birth children would soon understand why the young people, in placement, would be feeling down or tetchy. So communication is key with everyone. Encourage everyone to talk openly about their feelings, good and bad and do not try to force issues. It’s good for you own children to share and enjoy time with the young people in placement but it is always fine to let them do their own thing on occasions. Clear boundaries, not going into each other’s room without permission from the room’s owner and sharing meal times will certainly make situations easier. The feelings of your own children towards you being a Foster Carer are paramount. They need to understand what is involved and how it will impact the household. If there is any doubt that your own children will struggle, then you need to take that into serious consideration. The last thing you need is the additional stress of working through issues with your own children as well as working alongside young people, in care, who may be damaged by their experiences prior to coming into care. Get to know who your birth children like to live alongside and tailor your acceptable placements accordingly. If you are concerned that an offered placement may causes issues, just say no to that placement and explain why. It’s a lot better to turn a placement down than to want to give notice on a placement after a few weeks of turmoil in your household. It’s better for you, your birth children and, more importantly, the young person or people coming into care.