Not only does fostering have a profound impact on the children living in care, but it also affects the birth children of foster families. While many people would love to welcome a foster child into their home, the impact of fostering on birth children should never be overlooked.
Before you start your fostering journey, it’s important to take time to evaluate the pros and cons first. Although fostering can have amazing benefits for your birth children, it can also come with many challenges. We have compiled a list of all the best and worst ways fostering affects birth children, so that you can decide whether it is right for your family.
The positive impacts fostering has on birth children
- They learn how to share. Not only will birth children learn how to share personal possessions, such as toys, but also their parents’ time and affection. If your child is an only child, this will likely be an unknown concept to them. In the long run, this can be incredibly impactful, as it teaches children to be selfless.
- They become more empathetic. Living with a foster sibling can help your child become more empathetic towards others. During their time living with a foster sibling, they gain a better understanding of how difficult life can be for others. This can help them treat others in their life with kindness, teaching them to be a better, more well-rounded person.
- They can learn to be more appreciative. As well as becoming more empathetic, your birth child can become much more grateful for their own circumstances. This can lead them to become more inspired to help others in the future, using their own privilege to benefit others.
- They can build authentic, sibling-like bonds. This can be especially beneficial if your child is an only child. Through having a foster sibling, they can have another person around them that they might feel closer to. Many children struggle to speak to adults, so having a sibling-like bond in their life can be beneficial for their wellbeing.
- They can learn more about different backgrounds. No two foster children are ever the same. Children and young people in care come from various backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Through having a foster sibling around, your birth child can learn more about the world around them, leading them to become more tolerant of others.
- They are introduced to different personalities. Linking to the previous point, birth children can greatly improve their social skills through a foster sibling. Fostering shouldn’t be a permanent solution, with the goal always being to reunite a child with their birth family. Because of this, your birth child will likely meet a range of children during your time as a foster carer. Not only will this improve social skills, but they also might find new hobbies and interests through each other.
The negative impacts of fostering on birth children
- Learning to share won’t be easy at first. This is especially true if your birth child is an only child. Regardless of whether you’ve had a proper discussion with your birth child beforehand, they might still struggle with this. However, this can happen in any family, not just foster families. The key to overcoming it is clear communication.
- They might mimic challenging behaviours. Foster children can come from incredibly traumatic backgrounds, so they might not settle in easily at first. As a result, they might demonstrate some challenging behaviours. You might find your birth child mimicking these behaviours, especially if they are younger and more easily influenced.
- They might struggle with goodbyes. As fostering isn’t a permanent solution, your birth child might struggle with the inconsistency of it. During different arrangements, your birth child might get attached to their foster siblings, making it harder to say goodbye. They might also find it hard to explain to their friends at school who don’t understand foster families.
- Tolerance doesn’t always come easy. Whether it’s a difference in personality, culture or religion, there’s always the risk your birth child might not tolerate their foster sibling. However, teaching your child to be tolerant of others is important, whether they live in a foster family or not.
How can I look after my child’s wellbeing during a fostering arrangement?
The topic of birth children and fostering can be daunting for many potential and current foster carers. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your struggles, and there are ways to ensure your birth child doesn’t struggle in the process.
Before you even consider fostering, it’s crucial that you speak to your family and birth child first. You should explain what fostering is, explain they’ll likely have various foster siblings, and ask them how they feel about it. Setting up a plan beforehand, considering the challenges listed above, will make it easier for both foster children and birth children.
It’s also important to consider how you will manage behaviour and their relationship. Even in the face of challenges, it’s important that your birth child knows why their foster sibling is acting in that way. You should also be prepared to guide them into creating a healthy bond, which can have fantastic benefits for them both.
E, a birth child who’s had various foster siblings, said she loved the process, as “you can form amazing connections you never would have otherwise… I have been getting to know more people and hearing their stories.”
There are currently over 80,000 children in care, desperate for a stable and loving home. If you’re considering fostering, you can get in touch with the Compass Fostering team who can teach you more about the impact fostering has on birth children.