Today is the first day of Foster Care Fortnight 2015. Since this is something so close to my heart, I have decided to do a blog series in support of this amazing week of fostering awareness, and will be posting over the next two weeks on a different topic relating to foster care. The fortnight is aimed at encouraging more people to step forward and apply to foster – I hope this series does the same.
The first post…
Many people see fostering as an idyllic and altruistic act. One of the things I would hear most often when completing assessments for prospective foster parents was “we want to be a family for a child who doesn’t have one”. It’s even how I describe my work to younger children; “I help find families for children who can’t live with their mums and dads”
However – one thing I always encourage foster parents to remember us that every child currently in foster care comes from a family. It may be the most broken down and screwed up version of family that you and I could think of…but it’s theirs. For many children, they would return to their birth family in a heartbeat if it were possible. Why? Because, family.
Their mum or dad or aunt or step-parent or grandparent may have done awful things which have led to them being fostered…but they are still bonded to that family! It seems incomprehensible and illogical… That’s because it is. That family is the only experience of Family that the child has ever known, and when you remove them from that environment into something new, something “better”, something “safe”, it is hard for that new family to feel like a family to them, to feel safe to them because it’s not what they know. Their experience of Family is not like your family and it can be uncomfortable and scary for them.
Imagine how you would feel…being taken from what you know and then being told that these strangers are a new family for you, with the connotation that they’re going to do a “better job” than your real one. It’s not going to bond you to that family, it’s going to make you resist their attentions, push boundaries, do anything to stop themself becoming part of your family – because it seems like to be part of your family means leaving their own, for good.
It is so important to honour the relationship the child has with their birth family. Sometimes that’s a difficult, even excruciating thing to do – when the child is hero-worshipping the villain of their story. More often though it’s about accepting the child and their experience of their family and being sensitive in how you address or redress their real-life experiences to help them come to terms with their reality, that (in most instances) they are fostered because their family could not or did not care for them as they needed or deserved.
A foster child has a unique family identity, an expansive family tree. It could include several foster families, friends, peers – anyone who makes an impact in their life. But it always starts with a birth Family, and that cannot be denied if you want to care for a child.
* views expressed in this post are wholly my own *