Short-term foster carer Judith shares her experiences fostering brothers and sisters
In Buckinghamshire, we are in high need of foster carers for siblings to keep brothers and sisters together. We caught up with one of our short-term foster carers, Judith, to ask some questions about her experiences caring for brothers and sisters with Foster with Bucks.
Tell us about your family
I have three children and a husband. My daughter lives with her partner and my granddaughter and my two older boys live at home, they’re 26 and 21. I currently foster four children made up of two sets of siblings, aged between 2 and 8! We also have a dog, Chester.
Have you always fostered brothers and sisters?
Yes, we went into fostering to foster siblings. I looked at it and knew that was what I’m going into this to do - to keep brothers and sisters together. We knew a few foster carers that could have siblings and told us what a shame it is because sometimes siblings are split up if there aren’t the carers to look after them.
I spoke to my husband and keeping brothers and sisters together was one thing he was passionate about. Having three children ourselves, we knew how important keeping them together is.
It’s a shame when children are split up, it can be like adding trauma on an already traumatic childhood. Of course, it’s not possible in all cases, some can’t stay together for specific reasons, but on the whole it is nice when they are kept together. They’ve got the same experiences, and they can talk and remind themselves of things in the past and how good the future will be. We already had a busy household, so fostering brothers and sisters only adds to the fun!
What has been your biggest challenge in fostering brothers and sisters?
Each set of brothers and sisters are so individual, so it’s important to make sure everyone’s needs are met. The biggest challenge can be getting through to them to identify what they’re struggling with. We look after little ones, so we have the nappies to deal with, but that’s the everyday life of any parent!
My eldest had toothache last night and this morning, so I was worried about what to do due to lockdown. But our dentist is so understanding and supportive of our family because they know we foster, so they made sure to fit her in.
What's the most rewarding thing about fostering?
Simple – it’s the turnaround you see in the children from when they first arrive as they become more comfortable in our family home. We do a lot of talking and reflecting about their experiences, and they’ll tell me about being scared to death when they arrived, but very quickly they find their voice.
What advice would you give to someone considering fostering brothers and sisters?
Funnily enough, my sister has just started fostering brothers and sisters after spending time with our family! I would say routine is key, providing a good diet and firm but fair rules. But the main thing is, just enjoy it! You can get so caught up in trying to do the right thing, you miss out on the fun of it all! It can be challenging, every day is challenging, but you just have to sit back and say, “what went well today?”.
We often ask the children, “what went well today?” and they tell you what they experienced, the good and the bad. As a family, we reflect on what could have been better and what we could have done better. But just enjoy it!
What support is needed?
Good friends are key, and if you have a family around you that always helps. Good family, good friends – you’ll be fine.
What do you see as the main benefit for the children of being fostered with their brothers and/or sisters?
The children are not so anxious, they’re not worrying about where their little brother or their big sister is, they’re in it together and can talk about their shared experiences. The children long for their parents, but they have each other still, and don’t have to be worried about each other.
How do you make time for yourself?
The kids have a good routine – they’re all in bed by 7pm and if they’re not tired, they read. Then it’s time for me to have family time with the older boys and my husband, and time to relax! Before lockdown, we used to go out for dinner twice a month, but we still have evening meals with the older boys and the odd takeaway!
How do your own children get on with your foster children?
My boys are older so they’re out at work a lot of the time, but when they get home, they help the kids with their homework. They’ll help them build anything like PlayMobil and Lego. I do Sunday roasts for all the family, and we’re all together on holidays like Christmas.
On the whole, I try to have an evening meal with the boys in the week, as it’s important to show them they’re important, too.
How has your family coped throughout lockdown?
There have been difficulties just like in everyday life. Again, routine was key – bed at a normal time, up at a normal time. The kids would get their homework done first then go out into the garden. We did have a few ‘lazy days’ where we’d have afternoon TV and popcorn – to us, that made it a lot better.
We talked about the virus with the kids and explained why we’re on lockdown, which made it less scary for them when they couldn’t see their family.
Speak to a foster carer
If you’d like to chat with one of our foster carers on a one-to-one basis to hear what it’s really like to Foster with Bucks then please get in touch with us today by emailing us at FosterwithBucks@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.
We also host monthly virtual information events and welcome anyone interested in learning more about the application process in a relaxed and comfortable online environment. Email us to book your place at FosterwithBucks@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.