How do foster carers help young people with trauma? By Sarah McLaughlin

Children’s charity St Christopher’s Fellowship ( celebrate the amazing foster families who transform the lives of children every single day. Sharon is just one of these foster carers – here she tells her story of fostering three sisters.

“Hello, I’m Sharon I have been asked to talk about my experience of therapeutic parenting as a foster carer. My parents were foster carers when I was younger and my mum looked after 65 children in total before she retired, so I wanted to give it a go too.

A few years ago three girls came to move in with me. At first they was so much sibling rivalry and jealousy, but at the same time they were scared to be separated. They also showed signs of hyper-vigilance, which is when you are constantly looking around you to check for danger that is reminiscent of something you have experienced before.

We knew they had experienced trauma, neglect and abuse before they came into care, which is why they were behaving in these ways. They had spent three years living apart with other foster families and had only been reunited for one year before they moved in with us, so they had to get used to being together again.

Initially we couldn’t leave the children alone together because they would start fighting, so we worked with St Christopher’s therapeutic specialist to see what techniques we could introduce. This support was really helpful and made a huge difference. We started putting firm boundaries and routines in place, like set bedtimes and each girl having the same specific colour for their cup or lunchbox so there can be no jealousy.

We also noticed that if we praise the girls for something, like a drawing, they would destroy it because they did not think they deserve nice treats or items. So now we don’t overreact, overpraise or over sympathise, but we always tell them that they have good hearts.

Since we started with therapeutic parenting, the girls are more settled and calm. They fight less and have become more confident, as well as thinking about the consequences of their actions. But we are all on a journey so we still have a fair way to go.

And my mom made it all look so easy!”

Could you change a child’s life like Sharon? Get in touch with St Christopher’s today to speak to a member of our fostering team.

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