Larragh was four (and her brother Jack was seven) when their parents became foster carers.
Now 18, she’s shared her reflections on how it feels to be a birth child in a fostering family and how the experience has helped her to develop as a person.
Larragh’s parents, Andy and Grainne, became foster carers in 2007. She remembers being excited at the prospect of having new children in the house to play with, but not really understanding what fostering was all about.
Fourteen years on, she can clearly see the benefits. “Growing up as part of a fostering family is one of the best things to have happened to me in my life. It has had a big impact on me as a person and given me a lot of useful skills.
“I’m so glad my parents did it, it’s been a really positive experience for all of us,” said Larragh.
Andy and Grainne have fostered 17 children so far, mostly sibling groups including three sisters (10, 12 and 14) who are with the family long-term.
The important role of birth children
Larragh believes that birth children can play an important role in helping foster children to settle and start to thrive.
“A lot of [foster] children are quite shy to start with. It can be daunting for them, surrounded by adults and going into a home that they don’t know, but if there are other children there it can help them to relax and feel a bit better.
“It’s comforting for them and can help them feel safe and welcome. It’s always nice when you see a child start to settle in and become more themselves.”
“I’m so glad my parents did it, it’s been a really positive experience for all of us”
Having someone of a similar age to talk to can also be a good thing for foster children.
“Sometimes they feel more comfortable talking to other children about things they are worried about, rather than talking to an adult.
“I noticed this particularly as I got a bit older. I suppose I’m closer in age to them than my parents are, so maybe they think I understand more about what they are going through. I like helping to support and comfort them.”
While Larragh’s experience of growing up in a fostering family has been overwhelmingly positive, she admitted that it could sometimes be upsetting as she got older and understood more about why the children were there.
Ultimately though, she enjoyed seeing the children start to thrive in the family’s care. “That’s the biggest high for me. When they first come, lots of them are quite timid and quiet but as they start to feel more at home then nothing holds them back.
“It is great to see them enjoying their childhood and starting to grow and mature.”
Proud of my parents
At times during the family’s fostering journey, Larragh found herself feeling a bit left out, particularly when they had new foster children and Mum and Dad needed to spend more time with them.
“It’s never a long-term feeling, though,” she said. “If I was feeling that way, I’d talk to my parents and it would get sorted out.
“As I got older, I understood that they needed to put extra care into the foster children to help them to feel OK. I’ve always been very proud of my parents and what they are doing.”
Advice for birth children
When it comes to offering advice to other children whose parents start fostering, Larragh stresses how important it is to be empathetic to foster children.
“It must be scary for them, so try to be as welcoming and friendly as you can. Talk to them but be patient and understanding as they may not always want to talk back. You can be sure that they will open up to you when they are ready.
“Our current foster children said that I was very friendly when they first came and that really helped them.”
Will Larragh become a foster carer?
At 18, Larragh isn’t quite old enough to apply to be a foster carer (you must be 21) and she starts university this autumn. However, she says it’s definitely something she might consider later in life, as it’s been such a positive experience for her and her family. You can read more about Andy and Grainne’s experience on their blog.
Are you a parent thinking about fostering?
Parents with birth or adopted children who want to foster a child are naturally cautious about the effect it will have on their own children.
Don’t forget, there are many types of foster care available to suit many lifestyles and family circumstances.