How will fostering affect my children?
16 October 2019
We are often asked ‘how will fostering affect my children’? So during ‘Sons and Daughters’ month, we spoke to Anna about her experiences growing up as part of a foster family.
Anna and Jamie were 7 and 5 when their parents first spoke to them about fostering. 10 years on, Anna shares her story, giving a very honest insight into her life as part of a foster family.
Becoming a foster family
I was 7 when my parents asked what we thought about the idea of us fostering, and to be honest I didn’t really know what fostering was. I thought it would be like Tracey Beaker and we’d by running one of those care homes. Obviously that wasn’t what happened!
We had our first foster child when I was 8 and my birth brother was 6. I remember if the receptionist at school came to the classroom, you knew you were going to have a new sibling when you got home. It was like an inside joke within class! It was always so exciting when a new child arrived!
Adjusting as a family unit
My parents were really good about it, they said “be really honest…if it’s not working, it’s not working. You are our priority, so let us know”. In a sense it made us a stronger family unit, because we had to be so much more intentional about our time together, so we would have games evenings or we’d go on date nights with Mum and Dad. This made Jamie and I feel as valued as we were before, and that even though we loved and cared for all the foster kids, we were still Mum and Dad’s priority. Because we were able to speak openly and honestly about the fostering, the honesty and trust extended into everything else.
I think a lot of people think that if someone is fostered, they will never be able to be like a birth child in a family setting. People assume that they are difficult all the time, and they do have their moments, but for 90% of the time, you wouldn’t think that we are a foster family. The way that we can behave around each other, go on holiday together or a day out together. We are like a normal family unit, and every now and again the unit changes slightly with a different person in it.
You know when a placement has worked well when you will act like actual siblings, in the sense of you won’t be afraid to argue with each other about who’s watching TV, and then 10 minutes later you’ll all be watching the same film happily.
What fostering means to us
Jamie and I have a really big sense of pride, when it comes to being a foster family. These are children who haven’t had the same upbringing as Jamie and I, and they haven’t been as fortunate as us. I think it's really increased our compassion for people.
If anything it has brought us closer. I think our natural bond as birth siblings, has been strengthened by things we’ve experienced together – good or bad, which a lot of other siblings haven’t had. We can joke and laugh about it, and open up to each other.
I also think it can be really beneficial for foster children to be in a family unit, because they’ve got kids their own age, they’ve got someone to play with and someone to chat to who isn’t just a foster carer. It can make them feel….not more loved, but more ‘normal’.
I think my compassion and patience have defiantly grown and looking into the future, family wise, fostering and adoption is definitely something that I would want to pursue. I feel like I’d be doing an injustice to my childhood by not doing it, because it’s been such a positive experience overall and it’s definitely something that I want to continue.
I’m hoping to apply for medicine in October, and I don’t think I would have done that, if we hadn’t fostered. I think fostering has given me so many skills, with patience and compassion but also communication.
Advice to future foster families
Obviously, with it being so good, I would just say “do it”…but I think it’s really important to sit down with your own children, like my parents did. I think it’s about opening up the conversation and saying “just be honest with us, and if it’s not working, it’s not working, and that’s ok" And not being angry or disappointed, but doing it as an experience and doing it all together, and not ‘oh that’s something that my Mum and Dad are doing and it’s not going to affect me, because it will do. I think it’s affected Jamie and I positively, but it’s not being naive about what will happen.