Beds, Herts & Bucks

Foster carers' children 'valued' by Hertfordshire County Council

Rachel and Fiona Wilkinson
Image caption Rachel and Fiona Wilkinson said the event made them feel "appreciated"

Birth children of foster carers have been thanked by Hertfordshire County Council for the "vital" part they play in the success of fostering.

The fostering and adoption team arranged a sledging event for them at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, as part of Sons and Daughters' Week, a nationwide campaign run by the Fostering Network.

The council has said research shows that the relationship between birth children and the fostered children in the home can make or break a placement.

Cllr Richard Roberts, Executive Member for Children's Services, said it was important to make them feel valued.

"The impact of fostering can be quite hard on the children of the [foster] family," he said.

"Some of our children come from quite disturbed backgrounds and it's the siblings welcoming them into families that makes all the difference."

Shared experiences

The Kids Who Care group meets regularly so that children can talk and share experiences.

Recruitment officer Frances Horobin finds foster families and explained how vital it was to let birth children know what happened during the assessment process, how life would be afterwards and what support there was.

"It will change the family, it will change things totally," she said.

"You've got another person coming into the home, somebody you don't know and you will need to build bonds. They are also sharing their parents with another child and that can be very difficult for some children. If we give them the information to begin with it can help things run more smoothly."

Rachel and Fiona Wilkinson's parents have fostered for nine years and their two girls did training courses for the year beforehand to help them understand the process.

Image caption Rachel Wilkinson enjoys her afternoon on the slopes

Rachel, 17, said that when they got their first placement, "it was a little bit scary".

"But we were all up for it, we wouldn't have done it if we weren't," she said.

"Obviously there were problems along the way because no one's perfect but we got help to overcome them."

'Very tough'

Their mother Claire Wilkinson said that while they involved their own children at every stage, it hadn't always been easy.

"It has actually worked out quite well but there have been some very tough things about it too," she said.

"Sometimes [our children] have had to be faced with some really hard truths about the toughness of life that perhaps we'd have liked to shield them from at that young age.

"But my eldest daughter once said that 'having foster children makes them appreciate their own brothers and sisters even more'."

The family has been supported by one of the social work team who has remained in contact with them.

"There have been times when I don't know how my girls would have coped if they hadn't had that support, someone giving a different viewpoint and listening to their angle on things," added Mrs Wilkinson.

"If I'm honest they do often feel quite unappreciated and they really are vital because if it doesn't work for them, then fostering doesn't work. They feel that perhaps their role is a bit taken for granted so things like this [event] are important."

Fiona, 15, agreed: "Sometimes it can feel like you get forgotten about being the children of the foster carers rather than the fostered children so it's really good to know that you're still appreciated."

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