Hi, I’m Eiméar, an eighteen-year-old girl and currently a part of the foster care system in Ireland. At this point you’re probably thinking, ‘oh she must be fostered’, well I’m not. I’m in fact the biological child of foster parents.
Born the eldest of four you’d think my parents would be satisfied with all of us but no, they wanted to do more and give back. After a family tragedy, their sights were firmly set on fostering. They wanted to make a difference and that difference became the reason why we have been fostering for over seven years.
Throughout the – at times exhausting and rewarding – years I’d like to think I've learned a few things so I decided to write to SpunOut in the hope of helping young people who are in the same situation that I’m in, through it.
Here’s some advice and tips on trying to keep it all together
Talk to your parents/guardians
I made the awful mistake of just agreeing with everything my parents said. I didn’t share any of my thoughts, ideas or opinions and it had a detrimental effect. Keeping all your emotions tied up nicely inside you during fostering will only hurt you and your relationship with your parents. Thankfully after a few stressful years I finally learned how to open my big mouth and talk to them and I have felt so much better!
This probably sounds confusing or relatable. If you are or were in the same situation as myself then you’ll know firsthand what being sidetracked is all about. When a new child or teenager arrives in your home, they’re going to be the centre of attention. There is no point sugarcoating it or lying to you all. Your parents or guardians will want to make the newest member of your clan feel at home and comfortable. Try not to be bitter or annoyed about this. I learned about being sidetracked the day my younger brother was born and then the twins (it's not fun being the eldest). Do your best to help out your parents and the girl or boy you’ll soon call your brother or sister.
You'll eventually have to learn how to change a nappy
Unless your parents care for toilet trained toddlers and upwards the fact is you’ll have to learn how to change a nappy (perhaps your parents won’t burden you with that responsibility, mine did). It’s not fun. Majority of the time it won’t smell. You’ll curse them for condemning you to a life of dirty nappies but just remember some poor fool did it for you. So be glad. Don’t forget the sudocrem and baby powder.
Learn to be accepting
I think that this point is so ridiculously important. Most of the children in care have come from bad places. They have been neglected, malnourished, uneducated, abused, mistreated and most importantly, unloved. Once you get used to a new person running around or screaming, you’ll forget about all those things. They don’t define this person and you should never let them think that. Of course their pasts are always in the background so be sensitive to certain topics or aspects of life that might be upsetting or nostalgic to them. This new child or children are essentially another branch of your family tree now so you should treat them that way. Just because they could be a different religion, ethnicity or social standing doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be loved. Don’t forget that.
There will be so many unfamiliar people in your home
Firstly, you may as well get used to the sound of the kettle boiling as it will be boiling for the foreseeable future because there will be so many people in your house. They’ll include Social Workers, Members of the Department of Health, psychologists and maybe even a Garda (←not that you want that). I found this difficult at first to adjust to but these people will soon become like furniture in your life. There might even be Christmas cards, Easter eggs and wedding invitations, who knows? Luckily all of our social workers are lovely and like aunties to me. In fact, there is a psychologist that has been coming to my house for at least six months and I’ve never met him ever. So it just goes to show!
Don't take their teddies from their beds
Perhaps this doesn’t apply to all age groups but if there is something significant that belongs to your new brother/sister don’t ever leave it out of your sight. My foster siblings are at the “let's have a million teddies phase” of their lives so come bedtime, there’s usually an Olympic effort being put into the search and recovery of Bully and Bobo. They’ll be so much more relaxed and comforted by the knowledge that an item they cherish is by their side. It makes nighttime a lot less stressful.
You'll have loads to talk about in your orals
If you’re in secondary school or even college, you will be able to bulk up those spiels on your family and new found sibling or siblings. In both my Spanish and Irish oral, my examiners both had to tell me to stop talking because I was rambling on so much. So maybe fostering could bump up your grade, who knows?
You might need to invest in a good pair of headphones
When I was about 14, I was scrolling through the Argos page online when I saw some ridiculously cheap Sony headphones. They were beautiful and I managed to persuade my mother to buy them. They were about €13 which is a bargain for what they are and still are.I honestly cannot recall how many times I have used them in order to drown out my younger sibling screaming. Mainly they were yelling because they didn’t get their way and they didn’t like that. I would just pop them on and blast Imagine Dragons or Fall Out Boy in order to concentrate whilst doing my homework. But of course, if there was something wrong with them, I would make sure they were alright.
Siblings tend to be placed together
I know from experience that social workers tend to place siblings with siblings. If you have a foster child that has a recently born sibling or another sibling in care, there is a huge emphasis on keeping them together. We had three siblings from the same family once! So just be prepared, you may come home to another foster child.
You'll spend a lot of time babysitting
As a teenager babysitting was an integral part of life in my house. I was old enough to look after my six younger siblings (which included three foster children under the age of 6) so I did. Sometimes you’ll have to pass on nights out or trips away with your friends to care for the brood. At the time, you’ll be annoyed but eventually it will pass and you might even have some fun with your siblings.
Hopefully this all helped you understand and grasp the life of a biological child in a fostering family. It’s not all fun and games but it is incredibly rewarding when you hear your foster siblings calling you their ‘big sister or brother’. Perhaps the advice above came across as a little bit negative but it’s the truth. It’s a tough road but you’ll have a bit of craic on the way and you’ll have made someone else’s life a lot easier, so be patient.