Many foster carers say that giving a child in need a safe home is one of the most rewarding experiences they’ve ever had. But what about the effect on other children in the family? If you’re thinking of fostering, you may be worried about whether you’ll have enough time and energy to look after your existing family as well as the children in your care. You may also wonder how your own children will feel about sharing you and their home with ‘strangers’.
These are understandable concerns and are important considerations when deciding whether fostering is right for your family. While there will inevitably be challenges, you might be surprised to learn just how much providing care to children in need can enrich the life of every family member.
‘I couldn’t be more grateful for my experience growing up with foster siblings. It absolutely set me on the trajectory of becoming the social worker I am today.’
Challenge Community Services caseworker BJ was 10 years old when his mother became a foster carer. Over the past 17 years his mother has provided emergency and long-term care to around 80 children. ‘Mostly it just felt totally normal having all these kids in the house and I never felt as though as I was competing or challenged for attention – Mum was a natural at caring for children. Because of my mother’s decision to be a foster carer, I ended up with four lifelong siblings.’
BJ describes his home as a ‘therapeutic household’ where he soon learned that not all children had the same upbringing. Understanding that children in out of home care have often experienced great disadvantage or trauma is a valuable life lesson. Children who come from different cultures or have different religious beliefs also provide a wonderful opportunity for others in the family to learn about and become accepting of these differences.
For an only child, the skill of sharing may be relatively foreign. With foster siblings, an only child soon learns how to share their time and belongings. Sibling rivalry is normal and common, but strong bonds and friendships also develop which sometimes extend well beyond the placement.
‘I never felt as though as I was competing or challenged for attention – Mum was a natural at caring for children.’
‘I couldn’t be more grateful for my experience growing up with foster siblings,’ says BJ. ‘It absolutely set me on the trajectory of becoming the social worker I am today. It did sometimes feel like a big responsibility when the other kids would mirror me with things like personal hygiene or would look up to me as a kind of role model. But I can honestly say I had the best childhood.’
Welcoming foster children into your home can have a hugely positive impact on other children in your family. Having foster siblings helps young people grow into selfless human beings with highly developed social skills and a strong moral compass. Providing this experience for your children may be one of the best gifts you ever give them.