Monday, April 11, 2016


The post "WHO FOSTERS" received a comment from a young mum (I assume young, she said her children are 4 and 11). The post was signed "Ari" - and by the way I'm also assuming Ari is a mum, but there's no reason why not a dad, it would be old-fashioned  to conclude a gentle caring soul is most likely a woman.

Anyhoo I'll go with Ari being a young mum  just to save myself from writing she/he all the time.

She's thinking about becoming a foster parent. We've all been there, thinking about becoming a foster parent. Her quandary is that fostering might jeopardise her own children's childhood.

So I'd like to talk to her in this post, but invite other comments from other foster parents and for that matter non-foster parents, to help her.

It's a somewhat lonely place, thinking about fostering. Let's help Ari.

The first thing I did was think about my own children's specific personalities. Every child is different (and how).  Each of mine had individual traits unique to them, some went in the positive column some in the negative column. Ari, you might do the same. Anything standout in the negative column would be the thing to focus on, asking yourself if your child's present and future happiness might be threatened by the arrival of a foster child. Some children are more vulnerable than others, but Ari;  I doubt yours have any enduring problems as you've come this far. In fact my guess is your children are pretty solid, you're a highly competent parent, and that's something you'd like to share with other children.

Next thing; Blue Sky met our children. It was agreed that maybe certain foster children might not be right for our family during our start-up period. Ari have you had any assurances along those lines?

Of course we had concerns for our children, but, without sounding cold, if fostering starts to cause problems for the foster parent's family, the plug gets pulled. No-one is expected to sacrifice their family's wellbeing.

We even had to rationalise an irrational fear; that one of our children would suddenly confront us, not now but in ten or twenty years time and say something like; "You ruined my life by fostering!"

Once we started to edge towards giving it a go we talked to all our wider family (as did Blue Sky), but specifically we talked to our children. A lot. Achieving approval to foster takes several months and we would bring it up at the table or watching TV or driving around. They started to feel on board and develop an interest in the idea. We talked about whether they'd feel jealous or intruded, and whether they'd enjoy feeling pride in helping children less lucky than themselves.

So; we tried to bring our own insights into our children into the thinking, we tried to give them a sense of ownership, and leave them in no doubt that there was a way out if anyone found it too much.

Ari, I wonder how your own two children engage with each other? Your eldest is 11 and your second is 4. Eldest will need to be pretty accommodating to adjust their games and interaction to knit with youngest. Accommodating is good. Soon eldest will start to strike out into an independent life and youngest will experience shades of only child syndrome, which has it's plusses as well as minuses. You'll know their emotional intelligence inside out.

You always get a good profile of the foster child you're being offered and time to chew it over, thinking about the fit. You can, and should, if you think a proposed child is wrong for you, say No.

All that said, I think you should proceed with the approval process. It's seriously useful as a tool for being the best parent you can be, never mind about the pride in qualifying. We underwent our first approval process in 1985 but didn't begin to actually foster for several years. Why? Because the day we got the letter saying we were approved was the very same day I found out we were expecting our first child and we decided to put fostering on hold until our own family were ready.

Those are my thoughts Ari.

Anyone else?


  1. Well, we don't have children of our own so I'm hoping someone else with more experience will provide advice.

    I always rave about the importance of the support, practical help (eg babysitting) and general involvement of friends and family. I suspect that like us Ari will have with friends with kids. This group has been great for us and it worth getting a few assessed as your “support” people so the social workers are happy with them babysitting.

    We love doing things with the kids, but sometimes we need time as a couple (in Ari’s case as the birth family), or just need time with our mates to blow off steam. We involve the kids in the planning of this so they don’t feel abandoned.

    We make sure they get some one on one time too – eg Hubby takes one to football, while I take the other for lunch. I expect it would vital for birth children to be assured, on a regular basis, that they are the priority. Ari may have already experienced a little sibling jealous or anxiety from the older one when the younger came along.

    Talking over things like having to share the Xbox, who gets the window seat on the train, or the best seat on the sofa, or the last roast potato, who will pick the Saturday morning TV, or who sits by who at the cinema. These things matter. As does what happens if the child breaks something, or has a different bedtime, how routines might change. And following on from SFC’s comments on the previous post, talk about how the birth kids will feel having someone else call you mum/dad. Sound like that could be HUGE. And what will your parents/siblings want to be called – first names, nicknames, aunty etc? And what will your own children refer to them as when their friends ask about the new arrivals? “My Cousin” can work if they can’t cope with calling the my brother/sister.

    My second piece of advice is to keep a list of questions to ask about the placement before you accept. As SFC says it’s too easy to make assumptions when you hear about the FC’s circumstances, always dig a little deeper. Little things like how well do they sleep, do they wet the bed, how well do they cope with contact, are they having counselling, what support is school giving, what are their tantrum triggers, how well do they eat, any special dietary needs, what do the current foster carer’s have issues with (eg bath time, bedtime etc). Think realistically about how the child and their situation will fit into your life. For example a child who plays up about going to bed and doesn't sleep might be a huge disruption if you've just got your youngsters into a good routine, and will leave you feeling exhausted. We had a good tactic of the agency calling one of us, and then us conferring, before calling the agency back to ask more question, accept or decline. The conferring gave us a few minutes to reflect and respond rationally rather than emotionally.

    Finally – I really recommend doing respite while waiting for a placement. It’s a kind of trial run and will let you all get used to it. We’d said no to anyone over 10 until we had a teen on respite and loved it. We wouldn't have our current kids if we hadn't done that and changed our specifications.

    Good lucky Ari, I’m sure you’d make an excellent foster carer, you’re already thinking along the right lines. Keep us updated!

  2. Ari, I hope you're able to digest Mooglet's comments: fantastic advice.

  3. We started fostering just over a year ago when our children were nearly 5,6&7. So far it has been fantastic and the children are loving it, we are currently coming to the end of our second placement who will be leaving us to go for adoption in June. To make it work for us we only do newborn -4 years and after each child leaves we give notice to our LA that we are taking time off to deal with our grief as a family at the loss of the child, but also to list all the ways the child bloomed because of our input, we have a family holiday and then are back refreshed and ready and very eager for the next child to open our hearts to. Fostering isn't right for every birth child or for that matter every adult, but for our family it's perfect ��

  4. Fascinating, Mummy Bee. I'm going to sit down and think about your grieving policy, it's a really profound idea. I've been doing fostering a while now, and it's only just hit me; thanks to your post.
    Keep up the great work.
    More good thinking for Ari to chew on.

  5. I've just popped on to catch-up following a few busy days - thank you for your thoughts, I will spend some quality time digesting them ... had a good chat over a cuppa this morning with the manager of lil one's pre-school, it's a fabulous, nurturing setting & they know how my youngest interacts with her peers better than I do (turns out the manager provided respite care for children with special needs before her bc came along) the advice I received echoed a number of those posts above and I'll update shortly.

  6. I’m sure fostering will affect my 2 girls in different ways – my oldest will see someone to nurture; my youngest will see competition!
    The reason I spoke to pre-school was my concern that my littlest has a huge personality & thrives on attention. I’m concerned she may feel threatened by the time I’ll need to spend with the new arrival and I know I will have to manage this very carefully. Pre-school don’t have any worries about her ability to adapt but did raise concerns about her being more affected when they leave than when they arrive – they highlighted family ‘ regroup time ‘ would be needed between placements.
    My oldest is quieter, mature for her age but tends to dwell on things – they adore each other (mostly) & having had a ‘sister sleepover’ waiting for Father Christmas they refused to budge and now share a room permanently which I think is lovely (we have 2 spare rooms so no probs if they want to revert).
    Regarding meeting the children and tailoring foster children to fit in – I get the feeling the LA will make that my judgement call.
    Speaking to others locally, birth children are not given the focus or respect they deserve – the foster child’s needs are paramount to the sw, there’s no real ‘big picture’ nurture-the-carers thinking unlike your experience with BlueSky.
    My LA have enough in-house foster carers for young children and only offer large groups/teens to agencies so my options are limited.
    I have had the assurance that if things are genuinely untenable, then the foster child will be moved (something I would find very difficult) but, as you mention, my family must continue to be my priority.
    Yes Mooglet – I’ve experienced sibling rivalry - generally from lil one who would forcibly impose her will with guile or force. Family ‘rules’ have helped immensely, and I agree absolutely we’ll need a plan to deal with the natural escalations a foster child will bring.
    I asked my oldest if she had any questions about fostering a few weeks ago (she’s completely on board albeit with slightly rose-tinted glasses). I had pre-empted most of her questions – but the one I hadn’t considered was “Will they call you Mum?” It obviously is a biggie for birth children isn’t it? I like the ‘Aunty’ idea.
    Love the list of questions Mooglet, although I’d been led to believe that often they don’t give you much background as the sw doesn’t have it – if the child has just been in emergency care for a few days I’d imagine there’s a limited pool of data available?
    I’ll ask if we’ll be able to do respite first – I know a recently approved carer had less than a fortnight before their first placement arrived, our LA are very eager to use in-house carers whenever they can and are trying to encourage me to take siblings but we’re not ready for that and I have my doubts as to whether I ever will having read a few SFC posts/comments.
    Thanks Mummy Bee – I’m so pleased you took the time to post! I think younger children will suit us too, at least initially. Giving the family time to grieve & refresh sounds like perfect advice, and it’s obviously something my daughter’s pre-school strongly recommend for her. We’ll definitely be doing that.
    All that remains is for me to press the metaphorical ‘go’ button – I think I’d better tidy the house first :)

  7. The very best of luck. It'll be bumpy here and there, but people can tell that you'll be great.
    Whether you foster for a weekend or for the rest of your life, you'll be making a difference, and your children, who will have mixed thoughts at times, will end up proud of their mum, and proud of themselves.

  8. I decided to start the process today and have been advised by my LA foster team they're not actively recruiting foster parents for young children - so my application will not be prioritised unless I can take sibling groups or over-10s. One for me to muse ...

  9. My first reaction to what you've been told is surprise. Perhaps you might pursue the process, gain accreditation then negotiate your position.
    Also; You might try giving Blue Sky a call and speak to someone who could give you a wider perspective.
    Fostering needs people such as yourself.

  10. Thanks, I think that's what we'll do ... hubby has vetoed 2 sibs because of his work commitments & my oldest wants to remain the oldest child in our family. Both views I fully support & respect so we'll just go through the process & see where it leads us!

  11. Keep us posted Ari, and best of luck.