Social workers should give the children of foster carers more information about the behaviour of children coming to live with them, new research claims.
The review of international studies by the University of Oxford found that overall children of foster parents were positive about their parents’ decision to foster.
However, many wanted more information, particularly about the reasons behind a fostered child’s behaviour, to help them understand it and also deal with any disclosures made.
In one study 43% said they had experienced fostered siblings telling them secrets and 20% said this troubled them.
The challenge, the review found, was negotiating the confidentiality agreement behind such information. Some children in the studies felt uncomfortable they could not tell peers the reasons for a fostered sibling’s behaviour.
The experiences of their children contributed to whether parents continued fostering, the research revealed.
On-going support, such as the chance to meet other children of foster carers, helped to counteract some of the negative experiences found in the studies such as the resentment caused by fostered children taking up a lot of family time.
Fostered children also often hid their own problems because they felt they were not as important as those of the fostered child.
But many children reported positive experiences such as the family becoming closer because they all saw themselves as part of the fostering team. The children also exhibited more responsibility and increased caring and empathy skills.
However, these positive experiences were more likely if the children had been involved in the decision to foster a child in the first place.
Far fewer children of foster carers (64%) reported having been involved in the fostering decision than parents reported having discussed the matter with their children (90%). Older children were more likely to have been involved in the decision than younger children.
Director of the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford Judy Sebba said preparation was the key to keeping good foster carers and increasing successful placements.
“An important role needs to be played by social workers and school staff in addressing the needs of children in the families who foster as well as the fostered children themselves.”