Welcoming a foster child into your home when you have young children

ADVICE FOR CARERS

Welcoming a foster child into your home when you have young children

Author: Jamie McCreghan   On: May 23, 2023  In: Advice for Carers
Welcoming a foster child into your home when you have young children

Razmina and her husband had wanted to become foster carers for a long time. They first discussed the idea 14 years ago, shortly after getting married.

But the London-based couple, who now have three children, waited until their youngest child was nearly three years old before they finally approached an agency.

“Once my youngest was out of nappies and becoming more independent I thought, this is the time,”Razmina said. “I spoke to my husband, and he felt exactly the same. He was like, ‘Yeah, I think we should go for it’.”

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cultural heritage
As young people get older, they become more accountable for their behaviours.

Introducing the idea of fostering to your children

Despite their enthusiasm, Razmina said she and her husband were naturally concerned about the potential impact of fostering on their children.

“As adults, we can adjust, but expecting three-, six- and nine-year-olds to adjust is quite difficult,” she said. “So, we started talking to our kids, especially the older two, about the concept of fostering. Obviously, they didn’t even know what it was. But even before fostering, my husband and me would talk to our kids to make sure they realise they’re really fortunate that we’re not living in a poor country, where we’re struggling for food, that we’re in a good house, whereas other kids are not as fortunate. So, they had that concept in their heads, so when I explained fostering they actually accepted it really quickly.”

The young person Razmina welcomed into her home was much older than her own children.

Setting criteria in the assessment and matching processes

With the family on board, Razmina and her husband searched for a foster care agency in London, ultimately choosing independent agency Lika Family Fostering. Razmina said she worked with the agency to set boundaries and expectations early.

“When we were going through the assessment process, before we even got approved as foster carers, we said we didn’t want kids who had really difficult behavioural problems, like drugs and alcohol,” Razmina said. “Lika said, ‘you’ve got three young kids; we wouldn’t place that sort of child with you because it’s not safe for your own kids’. So, them saying that made me feel more comfortable because they were already on that bus.”

Razmina got to see that policy in practice during the matching process for the family’s first foster care placement.

“What they do is they take your profile and then they look at a child’s profile that comes through, and they do a risk assessment, scaling from one to 10, and then when they think they’ve got a suitable match, they’ll approach you,” Razmina said.

A carefully considered matching process

With Razmina’s own children being quite young, it is natural to imagine the best possible placement for the family might be a similarly aged child. In fact, the family was matched with a 15-year-old girl.

“Honestly, we didn’t even think about older children, but I think if we’d had a younger person it might have been more difficult,” she said.

Razmina said their young person being slightly older meant they could take themselves off to school (a young person in foster care might well go to a different school to the family) and could look after themselves to a certain extent (that is, no nappy changes or toilet training, for example).

The one area where the family did not want to compromise was on gender.

“I’ve got a house full of girls and I wanted to feel comfortable,” Razmina said. “I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with a 17-year-old boy in the house.”

foster children playing football
Razmina’s young person is old enough to be more independent.

A period of adjustment when your foster care placement starts

Razmina decided meeting three kids under age 10 in one go might be a bit overwhelming for her young person, so she sent two of her children to stay with their grandparents for the first couple of days of the placement. This isn’t always necessary but it was a lovely way to help the young person settle in and feel comfortable in the home.

“It worked really well,” Razmina said. “I’m really fortunate because she gets along with my kids really well. Although she’s 16 now, they like watching cartoons together. When they go to the cinema, they all want to watch the same film.

“Our young person is amazing at art and my oldest child loves doing art, so the two of them are always doing art together.”

Razmina and her husband also made a point of setting ground rules early and getting their young person into the family’s routine, which helps provide structure, set expectations, and make it easier for the young person fit in.

Helping your birth children accept your young person

While two of her children have welcomed the young person into their family enthusiastically, one child still has a lot of questions about why the family is fostering. This isn’t a rejection of the young person. It’s more about the child, aged six, beginning to understand what fostering is.

“She’ll ask questions like, ‘why are we fostering?’ and I’ll say, ‘you tell me why we’re fostering. Are we doing it to help someone?’ She’ll say, ‘but how long are we going to be helping?’ and I’ll say, ‘for as long as it takes’. And she’ll say, ‘but we need a bigger house’.”

child drawing
Razmina’s young person loves doing art—an interest she shares with Razmina’s daughter.

Juggling parenting with fostering

With four young people in the house, how does Razmina juggle the needs of her own family, her other responsibilities, and fostering?

“Apart from fostering, I don’t work,” she said. “So, when I’m at home, you have to be really organised. I’m going to be honest, if you’ve got three kids, and you’re going to foster, if you’re not organised, it’s going to be a task and a half. When they’re all in school, I do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, everything; get it out of the way. When they’re back from school, I get them to quickly eat and then into their routine in terms of homework. Even with my young person, I’ll be like, ‘when you get homework, can you do it straight away?’ Because then it gives us time at the weekend to go out and enjoy ourselves, rather than staying at home, because we all have to take our outside activities as well.”

Being organised includes finding time to take their young person to social worker visits.

“Because she needs to be independent by the time she’s 18, there’s a long, long list of things to teach her,” Razmina said. “She doesn’t even know how to open the door with the keys. She’s never done that before. The real basics are lacking. So, we’re literally starting from scratch with her.”

Leveraging your family and support network

Razmina and her husband both come from very large and close-knit families. That’s great for Razmina, as it means she has a large support network to draw from. It also meant a lot of people getting DBS checks ahead of the family becoming foster carers!

“Lika said it was one of the hugest DBS lists they’ve ever done but it was worth it because now when I go around to my in-laws or I go around to my Mum, everyone’s been DBS checked so I have no worries about ‘has this person been checked before?’ or whatever.”

Razmina’s family and her young person share a cultural and religious background. That’s not always the case with a placement and Razmina said she would have been happy to provide a home and accommodate a young person from any background. However, in the case of this particular young person, and what they need, it was serendipitous that a match could be made with a family of the same background.

foster family
Careful matching is the secret to a successful placement.

Advice for foster carers on welcoming a young person into your home

We asked Razmina for her best advice for new foster carers on welcoming a young person into their home and giving them the best possible chance of fitting in well with the family.

“The first thing I’d say is ‘congratulations on finding Lika’, because Lika is really good at matching,” she said. “That’s really important because I know, as foster carers, they have to adjust, but expecting your kids to adjust the way an adult adjusts is unrealistic. So, getting the match right is important.”

“Secondly, be realistic in terms of what you want. There will be times when a foster child will do something you won’t like and that your child will see. You need to know, as a person, how you are. Are you going to snap at every time that happens or are you willing to take it as a learning curve? Like, ‘Right. We saw this. We’re not going to have a full-on argument now. We’re going to let things calm down’. Because me and my husband always have this approach. When something’s hot, leave it. Don’t strike it. We always leave it and we always revisit that topic, even if it’s three months down the line, we make sure we revisit that topic, and we talk about it. Because, unless we talk about it, and set the standards, it isn’t going to work for us, nor our kids, or the young person.”

You need to work at it, but it’s incredibly rewarding

Finally, Razmina said not to expect miracles.

“Fostering is just like marriage,” she said. “When you go into marriage, especially if you’re dating and you’d have had that honeymoon period, you think, ‘Oh, imagine. It’s going to be amazing’. But, you know what: it’s just another part of life. You will have times where you hate your partner or you can’t talk to them, but it doesn’t mean break your marriage. It means work for it. It’s the same with fostering. Don’t expect it to be a walk in the park, because it’s not. It’s about having realistic expectations.

“You need to be empathetic, you need to be patient, and you need to accept problems, whether the placement goes well or not. If you can have that mindset, I think that helps with fostering.”

Thinking about becoming a foster carer?

If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.

We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea. 

 

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