A birth child in a foster family – what does that mean?
A birth child of FCA carers has shared her experience of living with a foster family. Here is her point of view.
I am constantly asked what it’s like to be living with a fostered child in my own home as a birth child. “Is it like having another sibling?” “Do you get less attention from your parents?” “Is it weird having a stranger live in your home?” Ish, no, and sometimes.
Living with children in care for the past five years has certainly been a journey and a half. Each child who comes into our home has completely different needs and personality traits. This is something I think my two younger brothers and I struggle with whenever a new child enters the home, as everything we know and learnt from the previous child we cannot apply to the new one.
Especially as a young child, I remember it being extremely confusing when I saw the array of different situations and backgrounds these children came from. I’ve seen this as both a positive and negative. A negative, as it is very confusing sometimes to have to relearn how to talk to, behave around, and help a child. However, a positive is that it allows me to learn so much about a range of things, from child development to how to calm down a friend when they’re stressed. Fostering has definitely given me a range of skills that I use in other aspects of my life, such as my career, and I am now looking to work in the social sector.
I would say I certainly try to treat the fostered children as my own siblings, but it does get hard to do so sometimes. They come on family outings with us, and sit at the family table, and take family photos, and are definitely a part of our family, but at the same time, my foster siblings are very different to my birth siblings. For one, with my birth siblings I can get away with arguments and words that I would never be able to do or use around my foster siblings, due to it being inappropriate, triggering, etc. There is also the obvious fact that I’ve grown up with my birth siblings, so I know everything about them – what upsets them, what makes them happy, what they’ve been through and so on, whereas with my foster sibling I tend to know minimal information about their background, for their safety.
It takes a while to fully get to know a person, and I feel that as soon as I think I’ve gotten to know them, they grow up and change. or they move on, and I have to begin all over again. I still do refer my current foster sibling as my sister, and I try my best to be like a big sister to her, but it is a little more complex than that.
“Do you get less attention from your parents?” To be honest, not really. I guess as this is all I’ve known for the past five years I’m used to sharing the attention of both my parents with a foster child as well as my two brothers, and I wholly feel that I haven’t been deprived of any attention. Of course there have been times when I have wanted my mum’s help and she hasn’t been available as she’s at a meeting or having a discussion with my foster sibling, but that happens with all families and all siblings – I don’t feel that I’ve received anything less, purely because one of my family members is fostered.
Again, because I’ve spent most my teenage years with foster children, I don’t find it strange when a new child comes into our home. We’ve been fortunate enough to have had pretty long placements, and our current one has been with us for coming up to three years now, so it’s not like we are getting a new child every week. It is always a little awkward at first, depending on the age of the child, as everything is new and unknown, but it is very easy to adapt, especially if we work together as a family. Being a birth child living with foster siblings certainly has its ups and downs, just like any job or life situation, but for me it has certainly been a good journey, as I’ve learnt so much more than many people my age.