Let’s be honest, we don’t talk about mental health nearly enough!  Men in particular have a tendency of not discussing our feelings, even to friends and family. Being a Foster Carer can be a very stressful line of work and you could be dealing with young people going through a very difficult period in their lives. Added on top of this is the effect of the young person’s families stress and whatever issues are involved in the young person being placed in care. If you have a sibling group in placement then you are looking at multiplying this stress by the number of young people in that sibling group. Fostering can be stressful and as I stated in my last blog, it’s important to get some occasional respite, when you can. However respite will only be an occasional occurrence so you need to show resilience from a mental health point of view. There are various methods of dealing with this with the most important being that you talk to people! Friends, family and your Supervising Social Worker (SSW) are all useful people to contact in these circumstances. Do not try to muddle through as this will affect yours and, possibly, the young person or people in placement. My attitude always used to be that whatever I was feeling then the young person was going through more. I can hardly imagine what being taken into care must be like.

I suffered childhood trauma as a young person, losing my Mum at the age of 14 having watched her go through a year of Cancer. Being uprooted from your home, family and everything you are familiar with must be a life changing episode. An example I can give is a multi-sibling placement when I fostered with my ex-wife. The sibling group were known to Social Services due to their Mum’s behaviour and were, eventually, taken into care with us. There were two teenagers and two younger. The children were, frankly, all over the place. There was little or no relationship between them and the older siblings had no interest in helping the younger two. Meal times were a free for all until we got on top of that situation by introducing certain rules for them. The four of them constantly argued about pretty much everything. After the first contact we witnessed it became obvious why their behaviour was so bad. Mum was just like another child, another sibling and thought it was funny to wind the children to a frenzy. The placement was only supposed to be very short term, a few days, but ended up being quite long term and the whole placement and everything that surrounded it was very stressful. We always encouraged family contact but their Mum seemed to make it her aim to upset the children. She stole clothes and money from them and she would send them back to us with instructions not to behave and to remember that we were not their parents.

Our mental health was tested to its very limits as was the patience of the other professionals involved in the case, even to the extent of the young person’s Social Worker saying that she didn’t know how we coped with them. We were constantly at the school for meetings due to their behaviour. It even affected our family relationships until the placement concluded and the young people actually moved back home to Mum. Hand on heart I was going to put bunting up when they left but we did our job, they were safe and well looked after and hopefully learnt some lessons.

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