The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home.
Isobella, who is 14 years old has been fostering with her younger twin sisters, mum Liz and mum’s partner Caroline for three years. During this time, the family have welcomed two children into their home, the first for nine months and the second for 18 months – both little girls under four years of age.
Isobella remembers how she felt when her first foster sister arrived at their home. “I was very excited to have someone come and live with us because we love little ones and helping other people. When she arrived, it was overwhelming for her and for us but it was a great experience and she settled in well.”
Isobella says the best thing about fostering is “the relationship you build and how strong that is. We have lots of memories that we still talk about, like going on holiday to the Lake District with the first child who was in our care. She hadn’t been on holiday before and she saw snow for the first time! We were sledging down a hill, taking it in turns with her on our laps. It was a whole new experience for her which was lovely to see.”
Isobella and her family like to stay active. They try to get out of the house as much as possible, meeting friends and going for walks. The children in their care have loved being part of the things they love as a family; watching Isobella play netball, cheering at football matches, learning to swim, completing art projects and going to shows are just a few examples.
The support in place for sons and daughters of foster carers includes regular day trips and activities. A team of Brighton & Hove City Council Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout all of the school holidays, for birth children and foster children alike. The trips are a real treat for the children, who get an opportunity to form friendships with children in similar circumstances, and a well-deserved break for foster carers.
Isobella says “We’ve been on lots of activity days and they’ve all been great experiences and good fun. My favourite was a trip to Hove Lagoon to do water sports. We did wakeboarding which was new for me but really good fun.We’ve met lots of other families and they’re familiar faces now when we see them again. Everyone is really friendly and it’s nice sometimes to share the things we’ve been through. There’s one family in particular who we’ve become good friends with, they’re long-term foster carers. We love all of them and we go for walks with them quite often.” She continues “I know there is lots of support available from the fostering team too. I haven’t needed to ask for support yet, but I know it’s there if I need it.”
To convey the experiences, feelings and realities of being a birth child in a foster family, Isobella has put together an A-Z to help other birth children to understand what to expect.
A. I was 10 years old and in my last year of primary school when our first foster sister arrived to live with us. I will never forget her ARRIVAL.
B. It is really important to develop a BOND with the foster child. In my experience this takes time.
C. When you are fostering it is important to learn how to have a CONVERSATION.
D. As a foster family we go on lots of DAYS OUT at the weekends and in the holidays.
E. Fostering needs EMPATHY.
F. Our FAMILY sticks together.
G. It’s hard to say GOODBYE.
H. HUGS are important.
I. Being a foster family is part of my IDENTITY.
J. Sometimes when we are fostering, I feel JEALOUS because my mum can’t spend time with me.
K. Always be KIND.
L. Sometimes it must feel LONELY.
M. We love making MEMORIES as a foster family.
N. Sometimes our house is very NOISY when we are fostering.
O. Fostering means OPENING up your heart and home.
P. Good fostering requires PATIENCE.
Q. It’s important to learn what to do if there is a QUARREL.
R. Sometimes I feel REJECTED but I try not to take it personally.
S. It’s important to be able to say SORRY.
T. When the children we look after have TANTRUMS we tell them it’s OK not to be OK and we still love them.
U. We look after the foster children when they are UNWELL.
V. We look after VULNERABLE children.
W. We enjoy making foster children feel WELCOME.
X. XMAS is a special time to make memories as a foster family
Y. We create all sorts of memories, including YUCKY ones.
Z. The fostering journey is a ZIGZAG but overall we enjoy being a foster family. We are good at it and it suits us.
When asked what her advice to families considering fostering would be, Isobella said “There will be highs and lows. It will be difficult but there will be easier bits too, so it’s up and down like a rollercoaster. When children first arrive its usually difficult but once you push past that it gets better from then onwards.”
If you feel you could make a difference by becoming a fostering family, Brighton & Hove City Council would love to hear from you. To learn more about becoming a Foster Carer e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a call or visit www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. The team are holding regular virtual information sessions.