The Experience of Living with a Foster Sibling
When you think of a foster carer an older, wiser, picture may spring to mind. A woman with plenty of experience and the grey in her hair to prove it. However, for many foster carers across the world, this picture is far from the truth. In fact, many foster carers are young and have children of their own.
In these cases, you can wonder how the birth children cope with having a foster sibling in their home. However, there are plenty of cases of a birth child coping extremely well growing up in the unique setting that foster home presents.
For example, Georgia was the young child of foster carers growing up. Now 23 and with a son of her own, she shares some of her views (from a unique perspective) when it comes to fostering with a birth child in the home:
What was your initial reaction to your parents becoming foster parents?
Mixed. I didn’t know much about fostering at the time, however, I didn’t outright dislike the idea.
Was there an assessment process? Did you find any interviews stressful?
Yes, it was pleasant and undemanding from my point of view. I had a meeting with a social worker who asked me a number of questions about myself and my life, which I was more than happy to answer.
Can you describe your first experiences of a foster child coming to live with you?
Yes, the first foster child my parents cared for was actually a young girl that I grew a strong attachment to. She was a little girl with disabilities who came to us on weekends for respite care, really lovely. I struggled with the idea of her coming and going at first because I grew attached. But, this became easier to deal with over time and I developed an understanding that my foster siblings wouldn’t always be there over time.
Their leaving stopped being emotionally distressing quite quickly, even though I was young.
How do you feel about fostering now?
Foster carers are massively unrecognized for the work they do – there are some very difficult and upset children involved in the whole process. It is like any parenting, 24 hours and 7 days a week. For a job that’s pretty full on and something that should be acknowledged more.
What were the challenges of being part of a family that fosters?
One of the biggest challenges that I faced, personally, was accepting how much of my parents time and attention was taken. Especially straight after a first placement. But, as an only child, I had been used to the full attention of my parents. Now I consider the girls a part of the family and can’t imagine life without them, in all honesty.
It helps to understand where they’re coming from, so you can see past some of the more hurtful things they do. Studying psychology has also helped me understand the unconscious factors behind the behavior.
And the positives?
The children are like added members of the family. It means more people in the home, more company and more memories are made because of it. Really wonderful to see them turn into healthy adults as well. The true reward is seeing the children develop and flourish under the care of my parents, seeing the fostering process work for them.
What happened when a young child left your home? How did you feel?
It depended on the child. The first little girl – with disabilities – was quite distressing. But some of the children I didn’t get along with, so it was more of a relief. It was a case by case type of situation, in all honesty.
Any advice to anyone considering fostering with birth children in their homes?
Communicate. It’s simple, but it can reduce the amount of resentment that the situation can create. You’re trying to do the best you can for both your own children and the foster children, but there is the worry that your birth child will feel like you have forgotten them. So reminding them that that isn’t the case is important.
It wasn’t, understandably, all fun and games for Georgia. But overall, the fostering experience was a positive one for her and her family growing up. In fact, her parents continue to foster to this day and her son often plays with the children that they welcome into their home.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.