Welcome Our First Foster Child17 July, 2020
Adi and Kelly were approved as foster parents in May 2019 and since then have gone on to care for a number of children in a short space of time. Their first child arrived in August 2019 for nine days, before they welcomed Jacob* for a short-term placement, which lasted just over six months.
The couple currently look after three children on respite care and have recently waved goodbye to the first child they cared for, Jacob*. Here they share their journey of welcoming a new foster child into their home.
Getting to know each other
It was a challenging time for Jacob* when he first arrived as he’d been in the care of his maternal grandmother, who sadly had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Jacob had a lot to deal with and had no idea about what was involved in going into care, so it was a very big getting to know you process.
We were very lucky that our 17-year-old had some friends that were of a similar friendship circle to Jacob’s friends, so he knew of the people from the school he went to, which was a big relief for him at the beginning. In a short space of time, we found out so much about him that a lot of people, including his family, didn’t know, so it was great that he felt comfortable in opening up to us.
Adapting as a family to fostering
The biggest challenge for us was that Jacob didn’t have any ground rules or boundaries and because he lived with his grandma, he had free reign, therefore trying to settle him into a family routine proved difficult at the beginning. When he didn’t follow the rules, our birth children were confused and often said, “when we were children and didn’t follow the rules, we faced the consequences, so why aren’t the consequences the same?”
We had to explain to our birth children that any consequences for Jacob* were different because he’d not been used to any at all. As a family, we sit around the table and have these discussions when we’re all together. It often works in our favour having our birth children at home too, because we all work as a team.
In preparation for the arrival of a new foster child, we sit down and discuss what we need to change or what we could do better because there’s been a lot of challenges that we’ve come across previously with younger children. Therefore, there is a lot more talking now than before, but it’s a learning process for all of us.
I think as a family now, we’ve become more aware of things, with the systems in place around the house and things being slightly different, it makes you appreciate it’s not just you in your own surroundings anymore, so you need to respect people’s privacy.
Our birth children also appreciate the time that they get with us outside of the respite placements. When a child’s respite ends, it feels very quiet and our children often comment on how strange it feels when they aren’t around. This is when we start reflecting on how the last few days have been and what next week might look like.
Our dog is a huge part of the family and even he has had to adapt to the new children being around the house, which he’s very happy about. We’ve decided that he’s now our therapy dog as the children have really taken a liking to him.
We look after a six-year-old girl on respite who adores animals, and he helps her to get to sleep because she thinks that he sits outside her room making sure she goes to sleep. We often find that Yogi is a great distraction and with all of the children he provides therapeutic benefits, that offers great comfort to all of the children we currently look after.
Support for the birth children
Fosterplus always check in on us and our social worker Sue visits us every three weeks, but during the lockdown, we’ve been video calling every week. This new way of communicating has proven to work very well.
When Sue calls, she always checks in with our birth children, by speaking to them and checking if they’re ok. When we had our first placement we all sat down and worked through a variety of questionnaires, addressing how Fosterplus were supporting us, how we could change things and if there’s any additional support that we needed as a family.
I’ve actually helped out at a Skills to Foster course, where I got to speak to new prospective foster parents before we went into lockdown. As a result, Fosterplus have asked our birth children if they’d be interested in taking part too, to try and get them involved in sharing their own personal experiences of fostering, due to them being so accommodating throughout the whole process.
When our first foster child moved in, Fosterplus sent all of our birth children gift cards along with thank you cards and at the Christmas party, not only did the foster children receive awards, but all the birth children did as well. Our children have always been heavily involved throughout, which has made the whole process a lot easier for us as a family.
When we had our annual review, our birth children’s opinions were just as important as mine and Adi’s. At the start of our fostering journey, Fosterplus even spoke to our children about what age groups they thought would be better suited to our family and made them aware of what things would change around the house and informed them about the types of children that can often come into care, to ensure that they felt protected.
Without our birth children being so supportive and them receiving ongoing support from Fosterplus, we really wouldn’t be able to pursue our fostering journey, so we’re forever grateful for the support we get from our birth children and Fosterplus.