I Care 2 - Training for children of foster carers

I Care 2 is delivered in partnership with Berry Street and Salvation Army, Westcare. As children of Foster Carers whether biological, adopted or in permanent care they have a unique relationship with the fostering experience.

 

I Care 2 is training specifically designed for children of Foster carers and helps them prepare for their role in the fostering experience. As they share their home, parents and often clothes and toys with the foster child, it is important that children are prepared for these family changes. They often need to grow up and be mature beyond their years, but when they receive adequate support, recognition and resources, they are acknowledged, and they feel they have a safe space to explore any questions or concerns they may have.

 

The training aims to take its participants on a journey, beginning with creating more awareness around belonging to a caring family and concluding with a sense of empowerment over their situation.

 

Aim of the group:

  • To identify my place in my family, and come to understand more about myself, my personality and my lifestyle
  • To explore the impact that a foster sibling could have on my family
  • Understand why children come into care
  • To address the practicalities associated with foster care
  • To develop a sense of group, which will allow me to feel supported and nurtured, more aware, empowerment and leadership opportunities‘
  • Rewarding’ the sons and daughters of foster carers for the hard work they do & build their resilience
  • To provide support & learning for carers children generally aged 6 and above

 

All sessions are interactive and fun and each receive support from experienced staff and can talk openly about their experiences in the ongoing support group.

 

Day 1 of the group is about learning about foster care, helping them to identify their feelings and getting to know each other and understand there is support for them as well as their parents.

Day 2 is generally a fun excursion with current trainees and children and young people from earlier groups.

Our experience has been that if we have a group with mixed ages this works well as the older children help give the younger kids an understanding of foster care and act as role models as well as allowing for siblings to attend at the one time. The groups are generally run in school holidays.

In Day 1 some of the topics covered are:

  • What does it mean to foster
  • The up’s and downs of being children of families who foster
  • Adjusting to new family dynamics
  • Behaviours and my responsibilities
  • Being a role model
  • Who can I turn to for support
  • Dealing with grief and loss as children and young people in care move on or return home

 

Children from as young as 6 years up to 18 years old have joined the group. Some have been involved in the group for over 4 years and have assisted with the running of the program, which has developed their leadership skills.

A worker form the program also attends to help settle the child or young person in with the new group but parents can also remain. Parents are also invited to come back and attend the graduation at the end of Day 1.

 

Following the initial training, additional sessions occur throughout the year and all are invited to come back to reunite with the group, have a fun day and meet other sons and daughters who have previously attended the training. Others have also connected via social media and gain additional support outside of the group.

 

One young girl struggled initially as her parents began fostering due to the behaviours of the foster child and the family decided to go on hold but after she participated in the group she expressed to them that she was ready to start again having a better understanding of what foster care entailed and being aware of why a child may behave in certain ways.

During one of our sessions a child talked about feeling sad after the child in their care returned home and at the time did not feel comfortable to say this with their parents. After talking about it in the group where this was discussed and many expressed the same feelings, the worker encouraged them to let their parents know as well as providing access to counselling. The parents then ensured they had regular catch up sessions with the child to ensure they were aware of how the child was coping and could talk about any worries as they came up.

By acknowledging the impact fostering has on the sons and daughters of carers, they are afforded a space to explore their feelings and attitudes towards the experience.

 

Tips to help your child or young person when fostering:

 

  • Expect that your foster child will present with a range of behaviours when coming into your home
  • You may have a honeymoon period and then as the foster child feels more comfortable they can test the family with a range of behaviours. This may then mean you are spending time managing these behaviours and your own child is feeling left out
  • When considering taking on a new placement, include your children in the decision making before accepting the placement
  • Help your child or young person to identify how they may be able to help a foster child settle in or what they would be good at doing….could be showing them their bedroom or where the bathroom is
  • Family rules may need to change with the arrival of a foster child –often great to talk about this as a family shortly (but not immediately) after a foster child arrives
  • Ensure you make time to catch up with your own sons and daughters, separate to the foster child
  • Have family meetings to talk about how everyone is coping
  • Sharing can often be an issue – so work out what is special to your own child and ensure these things are safe. Have other toys etc. that a foster child can access.
  • Ensure your child knows it is ok to come and talk to you about any worries or concerns they have before fostering. They may need you to initially check in with them as they often want to support you.
  • Let your child know it is ok for them to have time out or time alone – this could be special time with a Grandparent or Aunt or Uncle
  • For older son’s and daughter’s let them know that they can also write down their thoughts and feelings in a diary. They could also talk to a friend about their feelings, a teacher at school or someone from the agency – particularly those running the group.
  • Make sure they have some time to be creative, play a sport, play music or read or write
  • When a foster child moves on – either to return home, another placement or to permanent care, check in with your child as they may experience a sense of loss and grief, or even relieved and feel guilty about this. It is not always possible to maintain the connection with the foster child and this again may cause concern about how they are and whether they are safe.
  • Ensure there are no secrets in your family and if asked to do anything they are not comfortable to do, let you know immediately
  • Remember there is counselling available via the Carer Assistance Program – most agencies have access to this (Similar to EAP). You can also access counselling via your GP or online counselling for young people 12 aged + at Headspace: https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/
  • Provide access to free on line meditation such as Smiling Minds which provides another support: https://www.smilingmind.com.au/
  • For younger children Cosmic kids on you tube is also very good, providing yoga and mindfulness: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

 

Other Benefits to participating in I Care 2:

After participating for some time several of the older Sons and Daughters have spoken at special events and become ambassadors for I Care 2 at conferences and training. Others completed placements with the agency once they were studying at tertiary level, whilst some did voluntary work for the agency such as helping to pack up Christmas presents with the key worker. As such they developed a strong relationship with the worker who was then able to act as a referee when they were applying for work both prior to training and afterwards.

 

Feedback from the children and young people who have completed the course talk about being quite surprised to learn that other families provide foster care and that they are not alone. They also stated that they came away feeling quite proud that they were able to be role models to foster children and as part of their role were able to give back to society.

Talk to your agency about running this program or contact Deb at FCAV.