Foster Care involves a child who is unable to live with their biological family for a range of reasons living with another family unit able to offer a safe, reliable and nurturing environment.

Foster children may need to live with another family due to issues including family illness, neglect or abuse, mental health issues and addiction. If you already have children, bringing a foster child into the family dynamic offers challenges, but also significant rewards. Biological children play a crucial role in helping a foster child to feel supported and accepted, so their input is vital in this life-changing decision. What’s On In Our Backyard spoke with *Gemma, a foster sibling who shares her perspectives. *Gemma offers candid and heartfelt advice for other young people whose families are considering or have recently taken steps to be foster carers.

How long have you been a foster sibling for?

Since I was eight years old, so almost six years.

Have you had more than one foster child come into your family?

I have had four foster children come into my family.

Were you involved in your parents’ decision to foster a child and how did you feel about it?

Yes, we all talked about it as a family before we made a final decision. Initially I felt excited because I was happy to help kids who haven’t been as fortunate as me.

Were you nervous about having a foster sibling?

The main part I was nervous about was if we were going to get along and be able to grow a close bond.

What has been the most challenging part for you?

The most challenging part was how Mum’s and *Chris’s attention was mainly focused on the foster kids. Since I was the youngest, it was difficult for me to go through the transition of being the baby of the family to having Mum’s and *Chris’s time and energy on someone else.

How did your family prepare for having a foster child?

One way that we prepared for a foster child was setting up the spare bedroom to be suitable and comfortable.

What have you discovered about yourself through the experience of being a foster sibling?

The two main things that I discovered about myself were that I am capable of being a great big sister and that I can accept someone into my home and love them just as much as I love my family who are related to me.

What has been the best part of the experience for you so far?

By far the best part so far has been the bonds I have created with *Matilda and *Oscar. I don’t see them as foster kids, I see them as my little sister and brother. I wouldn’t change them for the world.

What advice would you give to other children whose parents are considering a foster child?

You need to be understanding, especially about the fact that these kids haven’t been as fortunate as you have been. It is important to remember that they will need more time and attention than you do.

What advice would you give to parents considering a foster child?

It is important to be patient and not to give up on them. Depending on what they have been through, they are going to be difficult, but it is not about how hard it is, it’s about you offering a safe home to children who need it.

*All names have been changed to protect the family and the foster children’s privacy.

For more information or to take a short online quiz to see if fostering may be right for you, please visit keyassets.com.au.