Becoming a Fosterer when you have a child

(85 Posts)
Boomerwang Sat 19-Jan-13 02:01:54

I'm interested in becoming a foster carer. I have one child of my own. She is 10 months old at the moment. I am able to have more children, but I feel an urge to love a child who is already in this world and perhaps isn't experiencing the love that I so readily give to my daughter.

Before I delve deeper into this world, I'd like to know a few basic expectations. I would appreciate any links or advice you guys could give me.

Thank you very much in advance.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 22:40:19

Moel. It used to be that the local authority paid a lot less than charities or agencies, as regards fostering. Partly because, it was the agencies who had more difficult children to place. Dont know if it is still the case.

MoelFammau Tue 22-Jan-13 22:53:51

Bit aware that I'm hijacking... sorry.

My own daughter is 20 months old and would be 2.5ish if I get approved. My LA has a 2 years younger rule so that would mean I could only take babies under 6 months... Also because I only have a 2 bed flat. I do appreciate the difficulties and upset suffered by biological children living with older children who have no doubt suffered a huge amount of abuse and neglect, but would a baby affect my DD in the same way...?

Just a question. Just trying to build up a picture of the realities...

bonnieslilsister Tue 22-Jan-13 23:21:43

I think a hard thing for a child so young as your dd will be, if you start in a couple of years, she will be exposed to comings and goings and not know that it is normal to live with one family forever iyswim. What I am trying to say is I have a 4 yr old fc who has been with us 3 yrs, who has recently had to say goodbye to a baby we had from birth for just over a year. He has never mentioned this baby again unless we have as he is so used to people not staying sad and yet they were so close when together. I don't want to put you off though as I love fostering and we need good caring people as fc's.

A couple of points to make are contact is never in your own home nowadays so you shouldn't have relatives turning up although I have had threats to say someone was going to and also your bc would never share a room with the fc for the reasons mentioned up thread. It is so sad to hear of your family being torn apart sillymilly thanks

amillionyears Wed 23-Jan-13 07:56:34

I used to think that it was a shame that more people couldnt foster because they didnt have a spare room.
And this is getting, or going to be, more and more of a problem in the future.

But having read some of the things on here, I can now see more clearly, that the rule is there for very good reasons.

THERhubarb Wed 23-Jan-13 11:00:25

Moel, yes it will affect your dd. She will have to get used to forming a relationship with these babies that - no matter what you say and how much you think she understands - she will see as her siblings only to have them taken away again.

And as she get older, so will the children you will be fostering.

Many of them are disturbed so you have to take into account how your dd will be affected by them crying all night and suffering sleep problems/night terrors.

My advice: I know you have your heart set on this and you see it as a chance to be with your child and help other children at the same time but I think you have to wait until you have a spare room. It is NOT fair on other children who have to share their room, their private and personal space with a highly troubled child. If your dd wants to have some time to herself, just to get away/read quietly/do some thinking then she can't.
She will also not be able to have friends round for sleepovers as she gets older.

Yes this is all an issue with other siblings who share rooms too but more so with a child who is not a sibling and who is troubled and disturbed.

Work hard, save up and try to get a 3bed flat. Then you can consider fostering. I really wouldn't recommended you do it now. Your dd is too young to have a say in this decision and that's not fair because it's a decision that affects her life more than yours even.

lovesmileandlaugh Wed 23-Jan-13 11:19:32

Rhubarb and Silly Milly, thank you so much for your perspectives. It really helps me consider the impact that becoming a foster family could have on our family.
What advice would you give me (or my daughters aged 7 and 8) about becoming a foster family?

THERhubarb Wed 23-Jan-13 12:05:41

Talk, talk and talk.
See if there are any books suitable for their age group for them to read about having a foster brother or sister.
Make sure you listen to their concerns and don't give them a rose-tinted view of fostering children, give them the reality. They need to weigh up the pros and cons.

Have a family meeting once a week whilst you are fostering (without your foster child) to deal with any issues that come up, listen to concerns and just to give your children the message that you are interested in their views. They are much more likely then to approach you if things go wrong.

You need the support of your family on board too. Remember that if you take in a foster child, you can't just ask the girl down the road to babysit. Anyone who has any dealings with that child has to have a CRB check. It's bloody tough going at times and you may to deal with some really tricky behaviour and awkward moments. This will put a strain on you and your children so it's vital that family and friends are there for you.

To be perfectly honest with you, I would not advise anyone who has pre-teen children to become a foster carer. It's just too disruptive to family life and whilst you might be able to cope with these children who are there sometimes just for a few weeks, sometimes a few years, very young children cannot. Not only will you be dealing with behavioural issues from your foster child but your own children who may be jealous of the attention they are getting, who are being influenced by your foster child, who have been exposed to information they can't handle, who are distressed and disturbed by the behaviour they have witnessed, etc.

Older children may be able to handle it and can prove to be invaluable helpers but young children can become disturbed and traumatised. I know they are crying out for foster carers but I really do think that families with young children should not be considered. I'm sorry, but I've grown up with it and I've seen it happen with other families too. I think you need to be a very strong family unit to make it work. You need to have a strong marriage, strong ties with extended family, a good support network and confident children.

bonnieslilsister Wed 23-Jan-13 16:53:29

But Rhubarb, people with young families might not have all those issues if they foster a younger child/baby and also fostering older ones is not always a negative experience. I have fostered some really lovely older children. I really don't want genuinely nice people put off from fostering. It has worked for my family and I know I am not the only one. So long as the family does talk and assess how it is going all the time and you are right in that you have to prioritise your bc just like the sw will prioritise the fc.

MoelFammau Wed 23-Jan-13 17:26:01

I would only be fostering babies under 1. They would share my room, not my DD's. I appreciate the baby might have a whole host of disabilities, medical issues etc but it wouldn't be the same as an older child with those issues sharing a room with my DD....

Frankly, if it was the right match, I'd be very much up for long-term fostering anyway (or even adoption), meaning DD and FC would grow up together.... Not saying this is the goal, but I would definitely keep an open mind.

However, I DO hugely appreciate the points of view of those growing up alongside foster children. It's the side you don't hear much about and is very very helpful.

sillymillyb Wed 23-Jan-13 18:21:13

I am sorry but Im with rhubarb again. You cannot assume that because you are having under 1's that your DD will be untouched by your fostering. She still has to deal with the comings-and goings, the shared attention (because disabilities / medical issues are even more time consuming than an average baby - which lets face it is pretty all consuming!) and the fact that some one she will hopefully develop a bond with will then be removed with potentially little notice, and no future contact.

The children we short term fostered often tried to assert their place in the pecking order by knocking the children who had been there longer down. I have had my hair cut in my sleep, my brother had his food spat in consistently at meal times, my other brother had stolen goods placed in his things to try and get him into trouble. These are one off examples, but there are others if I wanted to go on.

Long term fostering, brings a different set of problems. Your child needs to feel loved and that she is your priority. I was actually okish until my parents had long term placements, but then the goal posts moved and I felt replaced, and pushed out by those who by virtue of their backgrounds and needs, shouted louder than me.

I knew things at an early age that you cannot unknow I knew about sexual abuse (because children often disclose to other children) I experienced violent parents / relatives, I knew the bed wetting / night terrors / acting out that come before and after visitation. I knew that not all children were nice either - your home is meant to be your safe place, but you cannot control the outside factors once you invite other damaged/ traumatised people into that space.

I know that these experiences are just what happened in my household and therefore there may be some very well adjusted natural born children who have grown up exposed to the care system, but in my experience, they are very few. I can't understand why parents play russian roulette with their child's upbringing and are prepared to take the risk. Please wait till your children are older.

Sorry again if this is not what you want to hear, I genuinely mean no disrespect to people currently fostering, but it is a subject that is really close to my heart.

plainjayne123 Wed 23-Jan-13 21:23:03

We have only been fostering for 2 years but so far my birth children have loved it. They adore our foster child. They were always very well prepared for what was happening, they know we look after children because their own family is 'poorly' and they were ready for our foster child to move on, but it didn't happen. They love being part of our fostering family. As to behavioural issues etc affecting your own family you always have a choice of the children you take, and there are no behavioural issues with most babies and a lot of other foster children, they are children. Things have changed an awful lot with fostering over the years and they are very careful about protecting the birth children, for example with the age rule.

bonnieslilsister Wed 23-Jan-13 23:57:20

Sillymilly obviously you are coming at it from a different angle. Sounds like you had a really hard time. Also sounds as though your foster siblings (for want of a better word) were not adequately supervised and not shown the best way to behave. How many fc did you have at a time?

You might think this is completely different but I grew up in a large family and many of the things you mentioned were things that did or easily could have happened in our house or in any of the other big families living nearby. I could have decided not to have any children but I didn't because I knew it didn't have to be like that. The same is with fostering. It doesn't need to be how you described it.

Nowadays a child is carefully placed and you always have the opportunity to say no. I have heard about sw not being completely honest about a child before they arrive etc but it definitely has not been my experience. At every review, and these happen quite frequently, I have been asked if I am able/would like to continue with the placement and they rely on you being honest and if the child you have is too disruptive to your own children you just have to say so.

I agree a disturbed older child is not going to a great placement for fc's with young bc.

I just don't want potential fc's being put off because they are reading about the worse case scenario with foster carers who are inadequately supervising and who seem to have almost washed their hands of their own birth children.

I really don't want to cause any offence to you though and I hope you will read this message without being angry

MoelFammau Thu 24-Jan-13 01:45:31

I'm glad that there are a lot of viewpoints on the this thread and I really do value the discussion.

I might come across as a naive do-gooder type but I do have some knowledge of abused children. I myself was an abused child. My own mother beat me up, locked me out in the cold, pushed me downstairs and screamed abuse at me daily from age 0-24. I've also worked with abused children (age 4-7) in a professional capacity and have some awareness of their behaviours. I genuinely do feel I have an connection with children from sad backgrounds.

I do have a young birth child and of course I want to protect her. But I do also think that it's a good thing to teach a child to care for others less fortunate. I feel a baby is a 'safe' way to start, as it's unlikely for a baby to trash the flat, break my daughter's toys, set fire to the dog etc. A baby also wouldn't stay in her room and the hierarchy would remain pretty stable - she wouldn't be usurped by an older child. If my daughter gets upset with how things go, of course she would be my number 1 priority and I would take that very seriously.

I have taken a lot from the posts from biological children in foster situations but it hasn't put me off. As Bonnie says, broken toys and fighting happen in any family - I know a 'naice middle-class' family where their two sons are at constant war, trashing the bedroom, destroying each others treasures etc. It's a little inaccurate to imply that foster kids do 'bad' things and biological kids are angels. I've definitely had experiences to the contrary.

THERhubarb Thu 24-Jan-13 10:03:04

We are not putting people off fostering, we are removing the rose tinted glasses. If someone can read all of this and still want to foster then they are the right person and in the right place to do so.

Here's a rather crap analogy. Everyone told me that breastfeeding was easy, that it didn't hurt, that it was a wonderful experience so when I actually found it all rather painful, messy, time consuming and an experience I came to dread I thought I was a failure. I was angry at those people who had raised my expectations so much. I actually even persuaded the NCT to let me write an article in their mag about the downsides of breastfeeding. The thing was, they were so desperate to get new mothers to breastfeed that they didn't want to put them off by telling them the realities. This just made new mums feel resentful and like a failure.

I see this happening now. There is such a shortage of foster carers that the harsh realities are often left out for fear of putting people off. Well I'm sorry but if people are put off by the realities then just imagine the chaos that would be caused if they discovered these realities all too late. Imagine the people who would suffer.

My experiences are very similiar to sillymilly. I came from a big family. There were 6 of us. My mother had already adopted 2 boys. I was the second youngest. My younger brother has learning difficulties. She fostered from when I was around 9 and still fosters teenage children now although she is in her mid 70s. Only the social workers can answer why she is able to foster teenage kids at her age or why, until my brother was able to move out 4 years ago, they allowed teenage children to share a room with a man who had learning difficulties. He constantly had his money stolen and his room trashed.

Their needs would be put before ours and they were constantly vying for more attention so they would try and get us into trouble, they were violent, some of them were sexually very open and I became frightened by the things they did, by what they said and by the disruption they caused. My mother had a foul temper and if they rubbed her up the wrong way we would all be in for it.

I did not have a good childhood. I don't blame that all on the fostering, a large part of that was down to shit parenting, but not one person asked us how we thought it was all going.

If you are thinking of fostering you need to hear this, you need to take this on board. If I can prevent one other child from suffering because of inappropriate foster parents or inadequate support then I will.

plainjayne123 Thu 24-Jan-13 10:17:11

I would also like to say that children from difficult backgrounds have behavioural problems due to what the have been through, but with the correct training and support foster carers can greatly improve things for them and help them to change their lives. Of course their will be difficult times for foster families but the rewards in my opinion more than make up for this. And again, things have changed a lot from how they used to be and things are a lot more professional now.

bonnieslilsister Thu 24-Jan-13 13:42:10

My children are talked to every couple of months by my ssw and their views are taken on board. They also have support groups for the children of fc's where they just spend time usually doing art and craft and chatting informally to sw's. I think in our LA they have spent time talking to grown up children of people who fostered to get their opinions and hear their experiences and are definitely trying to improve things for the present day children.

Do sillymilly and THERhubarb think their families fostered too many children at a time? And would greater supervision and being listened to by parents and sw have made all the difference to their lives growing up? I am sorry you both had such a rotten time. I would hate to do this to my children.

sillymillyb Thu 24-Jan-13 14:04:16

plainjayne I agree that with the correct training and support foster carers can indeed make positive changes to their placements, and that that is a very worthy reward to both that child and the carer themselves.... but to a natural born child? No, I would still say its not worth it.

bonnie to be fair, my parents had had 20 years fostering experience before I was even born, so they were placed with the more difficult and challenging children as they were more experienced. We had between 2 and 6 children at any time, both through the local FA and then later long term through a private charity. My parents were always around. But, if a child wants to steal / hit / rape (as happened in our house) then they will find a way. For example, we lived in a large 3 story house. We had a girls floor and a boys floor, and we weren't allowed on the opposite sex's floor unless for a reason, and def not at bedtimes etc. So the abuse took place a lot of the time on the stairs. You cannot watch everybody, all of the time.

Moel I def don't want to imply that "foster kids do 'bad' things and biological kids are angels" What I'm trying to say is that by virtue of the fact a child needs fostering, means they have suffered at best a trauma (mum being ill, no back up for eg) and at worst serious abuse over many years. Those issues take time and attention to resolve, there may be acting out - which is a natural expression of hurt / frustration / confusion, and your child will be exposed, or bearing the brunt of that. There is no right or wrong behaviour, just damaged children who need help and are exploring that in a space which sadly over laps with other children.

Sadly, I don't think mine or rhubarbs experience are rare. I am vocal in the fact that I truly don't believe you should be able to foster if you have young children yourself.

You may foster 20 children, and 19 of those placements will be a success, but that one time it goes wrong, the consequences can be catastrophic, and if you are happy to take those odds, that is fine - but the more you foster, the more exposure your children have to the outside elements myself and rhubarb have illustrated above. It's a game of diminishing odds.

sillymillyb Thu 24-Jan-13 14:12:21

bonnie x posted sorry - Im a slow typer.... hang on and I'll reply!

sillymillyb Thu 24-Jan-13 14:25:40

I don't think we necessarily had too many children, just perhaps the more challenging ones. I think, in retrospect, my family - because it had young children of its own, should have been given placements without a known violent / sexual abuse history. The problem is, is that so much is disclosed over time when that child is in a safe place - so a lot emerges once the placement has started.

My parents didn't listen to me. I have started a thread recently where I have mentioned how messed up I still am at the grand old age of 32, because I was being abused and when I asked my parents for that placement to end (never having asked this before about any other child) I was told that they had never had a placement fail, and they certainly weren't about to start now.

I understand that that is not "fosterings" fault, but very much my mum in particulars failing. However, we did not have ss involvement for ourselves, no one in authority ever asked how we felt, or if we had any problems. We were placed with known sexual abusers - how is that safe guarding anyone?

I was used to waking up and new children having appeared over night in my home, I was also used to being told that my new best friend who I had lived with for x amount of time was leaving that day / tomorrow/ next week and the reality was that I wouldn't see them again. My home was a hive of comings and goings, and therefore lacked stability.

I honestly don't want to upset anyone, I really don't, I think you are all trying to come at this from an angle of doing good, which is admirable. You need to listen to your child, empower them to tell you anything, and believe them when they say what someone else has done to them - even if its as small as taking a toy off them - those injustices matter when your little!

THERhubarb Thu 24-Jan-13 14:43:38

I agree with much of what sillymilly has said. I certainly didn't feel listened to either and my mother would never have sent a child back.

I also agree that the extend of the child's problems might not be known until well into the placement. Only after investigation do social services find out what has been going on with that child, so you might get a child who you are told is quiet and withdrawn and has suffered neglect and only after time do you discover that the child has also been beaten, abused and has a deep hatred and distrust of women.

Our house was known locally as "The Children's Home" because of all the comings and goings. I agree that there was no stability.

My mother would only foster 2 children at any one time. Their ages ranged from babies to teens. She was also seen as an experienced foster mother who never said no and so yes, we would get children at very short notice.

Not all of the foster children were bad, but I would say that all of them were disturbed. You've just taken a child from its parents and placed it with strangers, so they were bound to be disturbed! This can be very upsetting for all concerned and visits were just as bad. I remember one boy who screamed and cried as he was dragged out of the car by social workers to come and stay with us. His mother was allowed to visit and if she didn't (which often happened) he was distraught and would self harm, break things and hit out before sobbing in a corner. When she did turn up he would scream and cry and cling to her, begging her to take him back, promising not to be naughty.

That kind of thing never leaves you.

I think what might have helped was being able to talk to a social worker in confidence and perhaps having meetings with the rest of my brothers and sisters to discuss problems and issues.

Although really, I wish my mother had waited until my brother and I were in our teens at least. My brother certainly should never have been exposed to all of that. He was very vulnerable and some of the kids really took advantage of that. He would cry when they stole or broke his things. He couldn't understand it. Thinking about that still makes me cry now. sad

THERhubarb Thu 24-Jan-13 14:48:33

And I know that details of what has happened to the children are supposed to be kept in confidence, but it would have helped had we been given more information. If we knew that a child had been beaten and was prone to being violent and had triggers, then we might have understood more, we would have avoided those triggers, we would have known what we were dealing with. But as kids we were told nothing so we were totally unprepared.

MoelFammau Thu 24-Jan-13 17:54:18

Wow, you both had tough childhoods and it sounds appalling. I really can understand the passion and feeling you're giving out, and I agree you had horrible experiences that have tainted your lives right through to now.

I do still want to emphasise though that I would only take one FC at a time and that the FC would be a baby. I couldn't do more even if I wanted, as I only have a 2 bed flat and these are the LAs rules. And I would absolutely listen to my DD and her point of view. She would dictate the terms and if she said she didn't want to do it any more, I would accept that.

It's really not a comparable situation to a house crammed with 6 older, seriously tormented foster children and parents who refused to listen to you.

I do feel that DD would actually benefit. At present she spends 8 hours a day in nursery, with extra care from friends on weekends. She sees hardly anything of me, and I do believe that she would see the trade off of sharing me with one other baby as one worth taking...

sillymillyb Thu 24-Jan-13 19:05:40

I think therhubarb and I are singing from the same hymn sheet. We have had a crappy time of it, and the issues we have mentioned may sound extreme but that is real life, and we are sadly not a rarity I don't think.

EVERY child growing up with their parents fostering will have similar exposure to those issues. You cannot avoid that as its the nature of the beast.

If you decide to go ahead, at least you are fore warned and know what to look out for, feel free to pm me at any point if you would like.

Moel forgive me, but have you considered child minding? I know how appealing it must look to foster in those circumstances (I am on my own with ds) but the benefit of that over fostering would be that the children are generally from happy, loving homes and have their own parents to go back to each day. If you wanted to help disadvantaged children still, I think the LA use childminder placements for respite and for carers who still work outside the home. Don't worry if not appropriate, it was just a thought.

As a last point, I have found this really emotional and hard to write about here. I have been in tears at points, especially reading therhubarbs posts, as so much of it strikes true with what I experienced too. I really feel that fostering when your children is young is not in their best interests, but I understand and respect some of you may not feel the same. I hope we have at least made you think about things from a different slant, please stay aware and watch out for changes in your child and re-evaluate at regular points if fostering is still working out for your family. I hope like hell that things really have changed, and that SS are much more on the ball nowadays.

THERhubarb Thu 24-Jan-13 19:41:09

I can only re-emphasise what sillymillyb has said. I have been in tears on this thread too.

Moel, you may request babies only but they have enough foster carers who are willing to take on babies. What they need are carers who can take on older kids and the pressure for you to do that will come. You get phone calls in the middle of the night, urgent cases, a child just removed, has nowhere else to go, how do you say no?

I urge you to do more research. Talk to more foster carers and in particular talk to the children of foster carers. Do not assume that everything will be hunky dory and your little family will thrive like some fictional scene from a book. Expect the worst and prepare for it. If it doesn't happen then great but if the worst does happen, at least you will have some idea of what to expect and what to do.

sickofthissnow Thu 24-Jan-13 21:16:57

I am a foster carer - been doing it for 2 years now - I don't have my own children - and there is NO WAY would I foster if I had my own birth children.

There are the obvious risks - the constant meetings, contact, running around - it will impact on your own children - I currently foster a baby and wouldn't want to have to get someone else to look after my own child so that I could facilitate contact - you are expected to do the transportation - depending on distance it isn't worth coming home so you hang around until finish time - that's if the parents turn up. Babies very often have daily contact.

Children only have 1 childhood - whilst I applaud you wanting to do 'something worthwhile' - it is extremely hard, emotional, time consuming and not at all like having another 'sibling' in the house...

I fully agree with everything TheRhubarb and Sillymillyb have said. So many people say 'oh I couldn't do your job'... you have to dedicate your time to the foster child (regardless of age) and for me, I couldn't do that to my own child.

As someone else says, most LA's have a shedful of people only willing to do babies - so you may well find your services are not required anyway..

Assuming a baby stayed with you longer (frequently happens) what would you do when the child turned 2 and had to be in its own room? It can't share with your own child.

This is obviously my personal view, and I in no way criticise those of you who do foster with your own children - credit to you - but I just couldn't or wouldn't.

TheRhubarb and Sillymillyb - thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories... I hope life is treating you well x

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