Talking to your child about fostering

Monday 24 August 2020
Teenage boy with mother on headphones

Fostering affects the whole family, especially your birth children. We share tips on how to talk to them about fostering

1. Satisfy your child's curiosity

Regardless of your child’s age, be prepared for lots of questions at the beginning.

Children’s relationships will build over time. First, it’s important for your child to overcome their uncertainty of the unknown.

The more you can inform your child and satisfy their curiosity, the less strange the concept of welcoming a child into your home will be.

2. Educate your child

Your child may have no understanding about fostering at all, especially if they’re younger. Explaining why foster carers are needed is a good start to helping your child understand fostering. It won’t be easy, but this conversation must happen before you formally apply with an agency.

Make sure that you talk about why you want another child to be part of your family. This will be personal to you. Be open and honest with your children. Think about your answers before you speak to your child. It could be something as simple as wanting to extend your family.

3. Who, when and where?

It’s never too early to talk to your children about fostering. Speaking to your birth children early will help them feel involved in the decision. Even before approaching an agency is okay.

Talking openly and honestly about fostering will prepare your family for the journey ahead. A fostering assessment takes around four months to complete, it’s important the whole family feels committed.

It’s better if both parents are present when you first explore fostering with your children. Your children should feel that you’re a family unit and recognise that you’re making decisions together. The stronger the family unit, the more ready you’ll be to embrace a new child into your home.

4. Prepare your child for changes in routine

Life will change. Discuss this with your children; how must routines adapt to include another child? The bedtime routine is a good example of where you might need to re-think your current routine. We recommend children have story time in the lounge, rather than in bed.

It doesn’t take long for changes to become recognised routines within your family. It’s best that changes like this happen before you introduce another child. This will give your own children a chance to adapt to your new normal.

5. We're in this together

The message that you want to get through to your children is; when you foster, no-one is left behind. We are all part of a wider fostering community, and we support each other.

Your birth children will not only build a relationship with a foster child, but with our social workers too. It’s important that your child feels supported, not just by you as parents, but by the wider team.

6. Be age appropriate

Take your child’s age into consideration when you first speak with them. Their age will determine what is appropriate to discuss about fostering, and what is likely to worry them.

A teenager for example, is likely to be more protective of their space and their things. They may wonder how you’ll manage behaviour, and if they’ll identify with the other child. A younger child could struggle with the ‘waiting’ before becoming a fostering family. They may also assume that they can share a bedroom with a foster child, which isn’t possible.

7. Reassure them

Your children will seek reassurance from the very first conversation, and all the way through your fostering journey. Assure them you’ll still have alone time with your children to focus on things they like.

We link children with a planned breaks carer for regular overnight stays. This allows families time to spend with their birth children and other family members. For fostered children, planned breaks are exciting, fun and familiar. They allow foster children to build positive attachments with another family.

8. Respect your child's decision

If you find that your child isn’t ready to share their parents and their home, respect their decision. Use the time to build up your knowledge of fostering as a family. As your child becomes more aware, they may change their view of fostering.

Giving your child that little extra time may be all they need to reflect, process and adapt to the notion of fostering.