This is a candid blog from one of our Founding Foster Carers about fostering siblings. Here she talks about her experience of fostering two children who are siblings. Her reflections are helpful for those who are considering fostering and want to know what it is like.
What was it like for you and your family, during the process of being matched to children with Lika?
When matching us, Lika considered mine and my families cultural background, alongside the child’s culture and heritage, this meant that we felt more confident to meet the needs of the child with us. They also thought about my experience and what I had shown I was to manage well as well as what I may find difficult.
I feel that this lead us to have a really good match with the siblings we have placed with us.
I think that Lika manage all their referrals (children from local authorities needing foster placements) differently, they include us in their professional team, so they share the information about the referrals before they put us forwards, so that we are included in the decision making process.
However, sometimes this means that we get excited about matches, which don’t always come through. This is mostly because the children don’t come into care or they are placed elsewhere. I know that there is not much that Lika can do to effect this – I think my social worker support us well when referrals don’t come through to us, so that we aren’t left feeling upset.
As a family we appreciate that Lika look at the child’s background holistically and they consider all the needs of the child against our skills and abilities and look into the future to consider if we will still be a long-term match. This is really helpful in the discussions around if this child will find us a good match.
We have been trained with to learn different skills in parenting, therapeutic approaches, attachment and social learning theory, so that we feel more confident in our parenting.
We gain different pieces of information in supervision to help us to prepare physically, but also emotionally, before we have a match and a placement.
When we had a placement, we were skilled up to manage challenging behaviour’s and work really openly and positively with the professional and family network.
What is the thing you most enjoy about fostering siblings?
I most enjoy the fun and varied games and activities we can now be engaged in – the siblings we have are so different, even thought they are from the same family – which is so interesting, and beautiful to watch how individual they are and how unique they are.
My husband and me have worked hard to help the sibling’s feel settled and safe. They had experienced a lot of trauma and loss in their little lives and they needed a lot of nurture and explanation and we needed to be patient.
They did little things like steal food, not feel able to tell us the truth, but we worked with Lika to understand that this behaviour was coming from their fractured experiences, and they were fearful of care-givers responses to their behaviour. Which helped us respond more helpfully to them.
So we all worked hard on the relationship between my husband, the two siblings and me. We feel really proud that we have built a trusting and secure relationship with them – in which they feel able to be honest with us. They feel connected to our grandchildren and us, and want to spend time with us. They feel that they know our boundaries and trust our responses to their behaviour and find us reliable.
This is a huge development for these children, as other professionals, including their social worker and Court Guardian, have stated to our social worker, and us they haven’t been seen as settled before in other placements. So this is what we most enjoy, as we feel they’ve worked as hard as we have – it feels like an amazing collaboration between our foster children, both our extended families and the Lika team, and we do feel like a family!
What’s been the biggest difficulty in fostering siblings?
Our foster boys were at risk due to their previous experiences and therefore we had to be careful about who knew where they were.
I think that managing a story with the children – which they couldn’t share with others, but at the same time telling them they could tell us the truth. This felt like a contradictory message to them. We had to find lots of creative ways with our social worker, and the therapist at group supervision, in order to give them an explanation which they would understand.
We used a metaphor about their bodies- that we have parts of our body on show to others, but we also have private areas of our body that we don’t show to anyone. Therefore there are stories we have that we can share with others, but we have personal stories that we only share with a few people who we trust.
This helped our siblings to understand what stories they can share safely and ones that we should keep at home to keep them safe.
What is the thing that most surprised you about fostering siblings?
There wasn’t anything that really surprised me because we have raised siblings so we know what they are like! We knew they might argue, be harmonious, be different from each other but be thick as thieves too! This was expected.
What is the thing you most appreciate from your support from Lika?
I appreciate the instant support- whenever, no matter what time of day is it – I will always get the support I need there and then. This makes my husband and I feel that there is always someone behind us – even when its 1am!!
We know them and they know us, they don’t just take the information from us when we need support – they offer us suggestions to manage behaviour which is very important to us as sometimes we are managing difficulties which makes thinking out of the box difficult so we need skilled support in order to help us do something different in our parenting.
This makes our job a lot easier!
We both love, group supervision too! It’s also vital as we share skills and experiences with other carers who have the same outlook as us, and the Therapist is very knowledgeable and gives me many things to think about.
What advice would you give to applicants who are considering fostering?
I would say that if you want to be a foster carer, you should think about the reality of bringing someone into their family life. This is not just bringing someone into your home, but its bringing someone into your heart and your mind. The young person has to be considered to be part of their family and the child’s family is also being accepted as their extended family too.
Its very important that both the children’s extended family and your own extended family are able to have a positive experience of fostering and the young person in the middle feels comfortable and accepted by everyone.
It’s the fostering role isn’t seen as a ‘job’, it is more than that, its about changing lives forever, its about making families and giving people the chance to have a sense of family and belonging.
I feel that my family is bigger and these siblings are my family now.