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Published on: 2016-02-12 16:37:28
Imagine sharing your parent with a total stranger. It may seem odd, it may never even have occurred to you, but that’s what the birth children of foster carers do. Every day of every week; they share their parents.
But their role is not confined to sharing their parents; they are part of a family that fosters and they are involved in the lives of children and young people who come to live in their home who’ve suffered neglect, trauma and even abuse.
The children of foster carers, whether they live at home or have grown-up and moved on, can and often do, become the confidante and role model for the foster child.
“It’s not that they don’t feel comfortable about talking with my mum or dad” explains Cassie, daughter of Nexus foster carers, Ken and Liz. “They always love them because they’re fun and kind, but they understand that our foster children talk to me because I’m nearer their age and they treat me like an older sibling. For me, it’s a big compliment and I really enjoy my role as ‘big sister’, showing them the family routines, explaining who’s who in their foster family, teaching them new skills and introducing them to my friends at football practice and Tai Kwando. As the baby of the family, it’s lovely for me to look after and help someone younger than me!”
Of course the children and young people in our care have experiences they need to talk about and often, they’ll choose their foster carers own children as a ‘sounding board’. “We have to learn how to respond appropriately if they choose to talk to us about something difficult. We have to make sure we don’t ask them leading questions or comment. It can be hard because we’re used to chatting with our friends, asking them questions and giving our thoughts on things. You just can’t do that with a foster child. Yes, you’re their friend, but we have to be careful to make sure they’re safe and anything they tell us is handled in the correct way. Nexus helps us with that. They offer us training and guidance right from the word ‘go’ and they’re always there to offer friendly and realistic advice.”
“The hardest thing is when move on, but if they’re returning to live with their own family, then that makes it easier. We keep in touch with our foster children and, where possible, some return to visit us regularly. It always amazes me how much their confidence grows when they live with us and the fact that they come back means we all succeeded in making them feel welcome and ‘at home’ with us.”
Whether young or more mature, we are always there to support our carer’s own children, after all, they’re a vital part of our foster children’s lives.