Cat and her husband Paul have fostered with Brighton and Hove City Council for over 8 years and have two sons now aged 18 and 20. Cat has fostered 6 children over the 8 years.
Understandably one of the main concerns potential foster families have when they first start thinking about fostering is, ‘how will fostering affect my own children?’. We chat to two of our foster families to see hear how it’s worked for them.
Why did you decide to foster in the first place?
It was always something I wanted to do from a young age. I wanted to provide a loving environment for a child to flourish and do something to help children who had had a difficult start in life.
How did you introduce the idea of fostering to your sons?
We had a very open communication from the start and we chatted about what fostering was and why we wanted to do it and they were interested and supportive from day one. They were very involved in the entire process and spent time with the assessing social workers who made sure they understood what fostering was and were comfortable with what it would mean for them. If the social workers believe the children are not supportive, then the carers will not go forward as the whole family has to be behind the decision.
How old were they when you started fostering?
They were 8 and 12 so old enough to express any concerns they might be feeling. We always said to them that if it became too much at any point, we would stop fostering immediately. We set down boundaries for everyone at the start; for example, each person has their own room and no one can go in without the permission of that person. We felt it was important for everyone to have their private space and that we must all respect one another.
What tips do you have for other new foster carers who have children of their own?
Put boundaries in place at the beginning and make sure you have regular communication with your children. Communication with your foster children is so important as they will have anxiety around not knowing what is acceptable in your home. It will all be very different from their own home and they might never have had boundaries and home agreements before . Sometimes this involves explaining the simplest things like sitting at the diner table and using knife and fork, all of which could be new.
It’s important to manage and share and your time! I make sure I have special one to one time with each of my own children, even if it’s just a walk outside so I can check in and make sure they have the chance to talk honestly and openly to me.
How do you think fostering has benefited your children?
I believe my children have a much wider perspective of the world now. They are more tolerant and open minded and it has made them more rounded. I also think it teaches them a sense of gratitude and appreciation as they realise just how lucky they are to have a stable, loving family. It sets a good example of being kind and compassionate to other people.
Cat’s son Kyle (18) says ‘I’ve felt proud to be part of a foster family, and would encourage other children to give it a try. Each placement has been different but I have happy memories of every one’.
Sarah has been fostering with Brighton and Hove for 18 months and has a daughter, Hannah, 13 and a son George, 10. Sarah has fostered 3 teenager unaccompanied minors as well as 2 teenagers.
How has fostering impacted your family?
Sarah - Overall it has had a really positive impact. We have fostered unaccompanied minors so we’ve learnt so much about their different cultures and customs and spent time as a family discussing these. It has been a joy and extremely enriching.
Hannah (Sarah’s daughter)
It has been really rewarding seeing my foster brothers develop their English and feeling like I’ve been part of that. When they first came to us, neither of them had good English and we couldn’t really chat to each other but by the end when we were able to have a great conversation, I suddenly realised just how far they’d come. I feel really proud that I’ve been able to help them and it was really special when my foster brother introduced me as ‘My sister Hannah’.
What’s the best thing about fostering?
Hannah – It has made me appreciate my mum and feel grateful for my family. It has made me far more understanding and I’m patient when the boys need my mum’s time. I realise they are deserving of her time and I don’t mind sharing her as she will always have love and time for me too. When I say that my mum fosters, I say it with pride.
To find out more about fostering we'd love you to come to one of our fostering information evenings or find out more by calling 01273 295444 or visiting www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/fostering