Why you should think about older kids when it comes to fostering
When people think about fostering, they often lean towards caring for 0-5 year olds. For many different reasons, families, couples or singles don’t always consider that older children may be in just as much need of short term or long term care.
We know it is possible people are worried they don’t have the experience or skills to provide foster care for older children, so here we are sharing why there is so much reward and unexpected joy in fostering primary school age children.
Kids are full of personality
“Children in this age bracket bring a lot to the table. They keep life interesting and bring sometimes unexpected rewards,” said Nikki, a case manager working with mainly primary school age children at Life Without Barriers.
“They are often really engaging, full of personality and when you can build a relationship where they feel comfortable to laugh and joke with you, it can be really heartwarming.”
— Nikki, Case Manager, Life Without Barriers
They understand their story
Older children in care often have an understanding of their story, including why they are not able to live at home with their birth family at this time. This understanding and empathy can help them foster healthy relationships with their birth family and with their foster carers. At Life Without Barriers, supporting and building lasting relationship between a child and their family is paramount.
More independence gives foster carers more options
When children attend school, it can often provide more opportunities for foster carers to find part time, flexible or full-time employment. Of course, as with all parents, fitting in the after school and weekends activities will always be a juggle!
Kids can get involved with activities and team sports
There is a lot of joy in helping an older child meet their milestones and take part in the activities their peers are doing. "There is a lot of capacity for kids who may not have been involved with sports or other activities previously, to really flourish," said Nikki, Case Manager, Life Without Barriers. "You can help them get involved, develop new skills, and create new friendships.”
Image: Life Without Barriers has specialist clinicians on staff that can guide carers through complex issues
Carers are supported through any issues
Carers receive appropriate training, support and strategies to help with any issues they may find challenging or are not sure how to handle "The kids we work with are just normal kids, they’ve got the usual kid stuff to deal with as every kid does," said Elyse, as Case Manager with Life Without Barriers. “Although children in care may also require extra support to help them manage feelings of being away from family or learning to manage the feelings they may have as a result of trauma.”
Guardianship or long term placements are an option
Ideally, all children would return to their family, however this is not always possible. What we do hope to achieve, is that all children have positive and lasting relationships with their family. Often older children in care have long term or permanent care orders. In these cases, we would be looking for families to support and care for that children throughout their teenage years and onto adulthood.
Life Without Barriers needs more foster carers across Australia. If you have a spare room in your home and a desire to provide a safe, supportive, loving home for a child or young person who is unable to live at home at this time, please enquire about becoming a foster carer.
Peer Parent and Family Advocacy in Child Protection
By Jessica Cocks, Churchill Fellow 2016, New South Wales
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