One of the biggest myths in fostering is that having your own children still living with you will preclude you from becoming a foster carer. Not only is this not the case, but your own children can make a profound and positive difference to a young person in care. And vice versa.
When you begin a fostering application, many factors are taken into account – and having your own children is one of those factors. No fostering application can progress unless all members of the household are on board with the decision, so your children will be consulted and their thoughts and opinions will form a part of the overall assessment to foster.
When you become an approved foster carer and are ready to open your home to a young person, a matching process will take place. Again, your own children will be consulted to ensure that the whole household is happy with the potential ‘match’. You can read our full guide to fostering with your own children.
“It has had a huge impact on the person I am today… I wouldn’t be the person I am now if my parents didn’t decide to foster.”
But what if your own children were so integral to a young person’s experiences within the fostering household, that it changed everything for them? Maybe your own children gave them someone to talk to – someone closer to their own age? Conversely, what if your children learnt new social skills or simply learnt to share their possessions?
What started out as a potential block to making that fostering application has turned into a great outcome for all the young people in the household.
Samantha and Stephen have been TACT foster carers since 2013. Their daughter Sophie was just three years old when they began fostering.
Samantha described those early days: “As (Sophie’s) older siblings live far away and are a lot older, she was like an only child and so she really enjoyed having others to play with. When she was young, she did find it hard when children moved on, at least until the next knock on the door. She completely shared her home, parents and her whole world with whoever came into our family.”
Sophie spoke about the positive impact on young people and herself: “I truly believe that having a child in the family helps new children to settle. I was definitely an ice breaker for each child as children naturally gravitate towards other children. It helped them see that I was loved equally to them and that they were a part of a family, whether they were biologically related or not.
“It has had a huge impact on the person I am today. I am so used to sharing (as a birth child in a foster family, you share your entire world) that it’s second nature to me now, making me more understanding and empathetic to people. It helps me every day in my job. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if my parents didn’t decide to foster.”
Kusi started fostering for TACT in 2012 when his two sons, Zachariah and Maxwell, were nine and seven respectively: “Zachariah felt it would be cool, he is football mad, and he told me that it would be great to have somebody older to play football with and go to watch Arsenal together, plus watch him play football for his Sunday team. He told me that it would be like having another big brother in the house.
“All my foster children have done many activities with my birth children like boxing, football, bike riding, restaurant meals, go-karting, trampolining, roller skating, Go Ape, cinema, swimming and athletics.”
Kusi also highlighted the positive influences on his own children, particularly from an asylum seeking young person from Albania: “Zachariah learned about Albanian culture, food, music and the passion Albanians have for their country. I believe it has helped teach Zachariah and Maxwell how important it is to help others, especially foster children in our home, and to give back and enhance each other’s lives.”
The decision to foster if you have your own children living with you is one that your whole household would need to be onboard with. But with careful matching, your children could help to create a positive and supportive environment for a young person in care.
To all children of foster carers: thank you for making another young person feel welcome in your home, for showing them around, talking to them, sharing your possessions and your parents time. Thank you for sharing your whole world.