Thanks to Rachael Walker for allowing me to share this post with all of you! I am always interested in other’s perspectives!
Becoming a foster parent is definitely one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, it is also one of the most difficult and draining!
Before we began fostering my husband and I went to a lot of classes, training and meetings with the agency we foster with. While our agency was certainly helpful and informative they can’t prepare you for the way you will feel and the everyday reality of being a foster carer.
It certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, but I am so proud of the difference my family and I have made in children’s lives.
If you are considering fostering, these are some points that might help you. These are four things I wish I had known before I started to foster:
How it would impact on family life
Of course I realised that having another child in my home would make a huge impact on my family life; my husband Tim, teenage son Jack and myself, but I didn’t consider just how much.
When you put yourself forward for short term placements you have to accept that you will have to drop everything at the last minute – for instance when we accepted Lyndon we had planned a trip to see relatives for the next week that we had to cancel. The child comes first in these situations, but I have certainly had less opportunity to see extended family since we began fostering.
How I would feel about my foster placements
I was worried that I would fall for every child that I cared for, but luckily this hasn’t been the case. While I have felt a bond with all of them, some children are harder to let go of than others.
Some placements are very short term, and this makes it easier to mentally detach yourself from feeling too close to the child on a personal level. Some older children are also easier to part from, as they don’t need you to be maternal towards them in the same way. However, my first foster daughter Lucy is certainly a very special little girl to me, and I hope to keep in touch with her for the rest of my life.
That I may have to experience rejection from a child
I hadn’t considered before we began fostering that a child may not want to live with us, and may have been happy with their previous foster family and not wanted to leave. I naively assumed that if a child had come from a difficult home life they would lap up the attention and affection we gave them, but of course most situations are a lot more complicated than this.
If a child felt that their last foster placement was their family and they were happy there, they are going to be angry that they had to come and live with you. And even if their biological parents were addicts or abused them, that they still loved them and this was their home. This is completely understandable.
No matter how perfectly you set out a bedroom for them and how many cookies you bake, be prepared to meet with ‘get away from me, you’re not my mommy!’ If you expect to go into fostering and receive a child that is grateful and in awe of all you do for them, then you are making the wrong decision. That is not a reason to foster.
That I had realized how much these children had lost
I obviously knew that the children I would care for had lost their home and parents, but of course it runs much deeper than that. These children have lost their neighbors, their friends, their family pet, and the blanket that they like to sleep on at night.
Their school may have been the only continuous stability in their life, so if they have moved schools this is even more difficult. You have to accept that most children you care for will be missing the life they have lost, and will cling to you or feel animosity towards you as a result.
If you are wondering whether fostering might be for you I would recommend that you have an informal chat with somebody from a fostering agency or request some further information; the agency I foster with offers a chat function on-site which is a little less intimidating than making that first phone call.
Fostering is so rewarding but certainly not for everyone; it is so important that you get as much information as you can before hand and really consider whether you can handle the emotional pressure that this special job will involve.
Rachael Walker is a foster parent, wife and biological mother of one from Birmingham, UK. Read her blog here: http://www.rachaelwriting.blogspot.co.uk/