We asked some of our foster carers to share their thoughts on celebrating Father's Day sensitively with the young people in their care.
In this interview, foster carer Valda shares her experiences.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences of fostering – when you started, how many years you’ve been fostering, and how many children you’ve looked after?
My husband and I were approved as foster carers in January 2016.
We have enjoyed raising three of our own children, welcomed our children’s friends, their friends’ parents, our friend’s children and our friends, with encouragement, support and assistance during their times of difficulty. We have cared for five looked-after children during our two years as foster carers.
2. Days like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can raise mixed emotions in children in care. In your experience, how do the children in your care react on days such as these?
Our current young person, who has been with us now for 18 months, does not appear to be troubled by Mothers’ Day. It’s just another day to him. This might be because he has no real memories of his mother and can only rely on what he has been told; there is no contact with his mother. However, Fathers’ Day has meaning for him and he was able to call his Dad wish him a Happy Fathers’ Day.
3. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can obviously be difficult for carers too, as you’re conscious not to come on too strong. How do you approach days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and what do you think the biggest challenge is?
On Mother’s Day in our home my own children will make a bit of a fuss giving me gifts etc. and although my young person will wish me a Happy Mothers’ Day, he generally watches the activities. I include him in all the fun and games. I believe he is confused and not sure how he should be as he has never spent Mothers’ Day with his own mum.
Fathers’ Day however is much more relaxed. He was able to call his Dad and wish him a happy Fathers’ Day and in fact buy a gift for my husband, his foster dad, and willingly be a part of the special day. I believe this is because he recognises this day as a special day and has memories of sharing this time with his dad.
4. Many foster carers still celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. If you’re one of them, how do you normally celebrate with your child?
We have sometimes celebrated by going out for a meal, but the norm is usually ME cooking a special meal for my entire family lol!
5. What advice would you give to new foster carers who are unsure of how to approach days like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day?
I would say that during the run up to Fathers’/Mothers’ Day that you make general enquiries about whether they want to go to the shops to buy a card, maybe help them select a card/gift if needed, and be ready to answer any questions they may have about Fathers’/Mothers’ Day. Lead the way by celebrating in whatever way you normally do, and make the experience a pleasurable one for them.
6. Generally, how do you approach talking to children in your care about their biological parents?
I have to say that I do not, as a rule, ask any questions about their biological parents. I treat each child as a mother, gently helping them to feel secure, cared for and safe. When they feel relaxed, safe and begin to trust you, little by little, they share snippets of experiences with their biological family.
7. Days like Father’s Day can reignite feelings of abandonment in foster children. Have any of the children in your care ever experienced abandonment issues, and if so, how have you helped to support them?
My young person, who suffers from a disorganised attachment disorder, has settled well in our home and has a much better relationship with his father. He does not present as suffering from feelings of abandonment. However, he is very negative with regards his mother. I believe this is because he has no recollection of her himself and therefore may have some detachment issues. Whenever he brings her up I reassure him by say things like “She wasn’t very well and could not cope. When we resume ‘life story work’ you will get to know her better.”
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Valda!