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How I help strengthen bonds by supporting sibling contact

Siblings seeing one another at sibling contact

Foster Carer Tonya shares how she provides that vital sibling contact to help maintain strong sibling bonds.  

 

How it began

In 2022, Tonya made a life-changing decision to become a foster carer. Although she lived alone, this didn't deter her. As soon as she was approved, she welcomed a young boy into her home. Noah, who came to live Tonya just over two years ago, is with long-term, which Tonya has embraced. Noah arrived aged five, and although he has siblings, it was in the children's best interest that they were placed in separate foster homes. Over the past two years, Tonya has provided Noah with love, care, and support, playing a crucial role in facilitating sibling contact with his younger sister.  This contact has allowed Noah to find his voice and experience opportunities in life he once didn't have a chance to. Using a therapeutic approach, Tonya has learned essential techniques to assist Noah with his global developmental delay. Over the past two years, Tonya described Noah as coming on in leaps and bounds and has learnt to love himself after not experiencing the best start in life. 

Sibling contact

When taking care of a child who has a sibling, part of your role as a foster carer is ensuring you are prepared to support sibling contact. Tonya advocates for this very highly and enjoys taking the lead on it. Twice a month, Noah gets to see his younger sister, and Tonya thoroughly enjoys watching the two build on their sibling bonds. Noah has photos of his birth family around his foster home, and Tonya expressed, “I have photos of my family around the house, and if that is what Noah wishes, then I am happy to support him.” She treats Noah as part of her family and helps him maintain an ongoing relationship with his younger sister.

Twice a month, when the siblings get together, Tonya takes them to playparks, the cinema, bowling, swimming and even horse riding. She recalls a memorable trip when they all went on the Polar Express around Christmas time and how wonderful it was for them to experience that together. Tonya has witnessed a blossoming friendship between the siblings and has loved watching them grow a strong bond. Supporting sibling contact allows them to create memories and life experiences like every child should have the chance to do. It is about helping change previous experiences into better ones and providing new experiences together, ensuring they don’t miss out just because they don’t live together.

Preparing for family contact

Before a child has family contact, they might feel anxious or worried, and as a foster carer, you offer that pillar of support and reassurance that it will be ok. Tonya takes a therapeutic approach and shares that she and Noah read books about emotions to help him express his feelings  when he is anxious. Noah has very focused routines and boundaries that help, and they also have a chant and breathing techniques they do together which allow Noah to feel calm during overwhelming times. Tonya shared that before or after family contact, Noah would need extra nurturing and love to help him feel reassured, which she was happy to do. Over time, they have developed strategies to help Noah feel secure and for him to recognise her as his safe person at home. Another way Tonya tries to make family contact as smooth as possible, is to inform his school of when this was happening so the school could provide support and let Tonya know if Noah had been out of sorts that day.

Life now for Noah

Noah has come on leaps and bounds. He couldn’t read when he first arrived to stay and has learnt reading and writing skills, which are improving every day. He also now loves to read books and embraces learning new things. Books are a firm favourite for a birthday or Christmas present. He is making friends at school now and has made a best friend for the first time, which is a massive achievement for him. Tonya is a strong advocate for Noah, ensures he received the best care in school, and challenging anything she thinks isn't right or up to the best standards. Noah also adores horse riding and his pony. He loves grooming, riding, and getting his pony to trot around very well. Noah went on to win an endeavour award for his horse riding, and Tonya was immensely proud of his achievements.

Along with Tonya's support, his school and sibling contact, Noah interacts well and has made significant progress. Having his sister in his life has not only helped his speech development but also taught him how to be a big brother, such as learning to share and how to comfort another child when they might be sad. Noah is growing a lot in himself, and sibling contact has greatly benefited Noah's learning and development.

Tonya and Noah enjoy spending quality time together, just the two of them. A big favourite is paddle boarding and canoeing. Being out on the water is Noah's ZEN place. Sometimes, children might take a while to work out what hobbies they like, which is okay. A foster carer’s role is to help children and young people grow and explore what they enjoy in life.  Besides their water activities, Noah firmly enjoys horse riding, which helps him feel empowered. When children learn about themselves and grow in confidence, it is a beautiful way to learn to love who they are. Tonya tells us, “Noah likes to provide himself with daily affirmations about how his voice is important and how he is special.”

Tonya remains dedicated to supporting sibling contact and advocating for the best possible outcomes for Noah, understanding the importance of sibling contact and its importance for children and young people in foster care. Seeing the positive difference it has made in Noah's life has been heartwarming for her.

 

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Category

Fostering stories

Topics

  • Foster Carer
  • Therapeutic
  • Advice
  • Siblings
  • Support

Date published

11 July 2024

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