Adoption and fostering can be incredibly rewarding – but there are many challenges too. The demands of caring for children who have suffered trauma and loss can be overwhelming at times.
It can feel like one step forward and two steps back, as we try to manage their behaviour and repair some of the damage that may have been caused. Kinship carers can feel particularly isolated, as they struggle in the middle of difficult family situations.
Home for Good is a Christian charity and they seek to be a catalyst for peer support through their network of champions, churches, local movements, and online hubs. They also offer support through an enquiry line, online resources, and regular events. Find out more at www.homeforgood.org.uk or phone 0300 001 0995.
We’ve also produced a booklet for churches, explaining more about adoption and fostering. If you attend a church, why not give this guide to leaders or others in your congregation. It’ll help them better understand you and your child’s needs, and how they can support you. Read it (in colour or black and white for home printing) or request a free copy by post.
It’s important that you think about how you can best take care of yourself, and how to recognise the signs that you’re feeling stressed and need ‘time out’ to recharge your batteries. It’s not selfish to focus on yourself – if you know your own limits, and can keep yourself on an even keel, you will be more able to provide a caring, nurturing and supportive environment for your child. Here are a few suggestions:
• Regular routines will probably help both you and your child to be calmer and to conserve your energy and ‘pace yourself’ each day.
• It might be difficult, but make it a priority to schedule in time for your own hobby or interest, or time with friends. Put them in the diary or on the calendar and protect those times wherever possible!
• Regular exercise, even if it’s just a brisk walk each day, or gardening, will release tension and increase your energy levels.
• Try to have people around you who will help you to maintain a sense of perspective and sense of humour.
• Don’t be too hard on yourself. Children who have suffered trauma and upheaval may take a long time to heal, and it may seem that you’re not making any difference. Hang in there! Don’t beat yourself up for not always being the ‘perfect parent’.
• Make good use of any formal or informal support that is on offer.
• Make sure you find ways to have occasional breaks or respite from caring for your children. If you are fostering, talk to your agency about the possibility of respite cover. If you are adopting, think about whether you have friends or family who could occasionally give you a break by caring for the children. Baby-sitters for fostered children will usually need to be officially vetted first. It may seem a lot of effort to set something up, or you may feel embarrassed at asking for help – but it could make all the difference to your ability to cope.