Home Malta Winds Fostering a child – the gift that keeps on giving

Fostering a child – the gift that keeps on giving


Interview by Giselle Scicluna

In an ideal
world all children will grow up in a happy home, with a family which nurtures
and sustains their childhood and upbringing. Sadly, this is not always the case
for a number of children who for a myriad of reasons cannot live with their
birth parents. The death of a parent, familial crises, difficulties in parental
capacity, debilitating illnesses, drug and/or alcohol abuse, imprisonment of
parents and child abuse or neglect often result in these children ending up in
residential homes across the country, with little or no actual experience of a
normal family life.

situation is far from ideal as these kids will probably grow up emotionally
lacking and find it immensely difficult to form attachments and build healthy
relationships. While a residential home caters for all their physical needs and
provides a homely environment, these have their limitations and it is
logistically impossible for these homes to provide children with individual,
round-the-clock attention, which is paramount for a child’s emotional

Fostering Service in Malta aims at offering these children the opportunity to
live within a family environment, whereby they can get the love, stability and
security every child deserves. Furthermore, if later on it transpires that the
circumstances within their natural families have positively changed and it is
in the best interest of the children to return to their birth parents,
fostering can greatly contribute to helping them re-integrate within their
natural family.

fostering a child is a role which requires great responsibility as the welfare
of the child is the ultimate priority and therefore the screening and
assessment of prospective foster carers is a lengthy and rigorous one. When
prospective candidates finally meet the established criteria for fostering,
these are then enrolled on a specialised training course with a team of
qualified social workers to provide monitoring, supervision, guidance and

bringing up somebody else’s child requires much more than just training – there
is no blood bond like that of a natural parent and child and therefore that
bond needs to be built from scratch, sometimes with a child who not only
carries adverse emotional baggage, way beyond his or her years, but also has no
inkling of family dynamics with its established rules, traditions, code of
discipline or ways of communicating.

While all
this might seem dispiriting, there are still several selfless souls who
persevere and still look forward to fostering a child or more. We speak to
Mary*, a mother of two grown-up children, who together with her husband has
been fostering a child for the past three years. What are her experiences as a
foster parent? “It has been a roller-coaster ride,” she says with a smile, “We
took John* home when he was just seven years old. He was a shy little boy,
quiet and very introverted. But he also had a dark and angry side to him which
would surface unexpectedly without any apparent trigger.

“It took
quite a while for him to adapt to this new environment and that happened not
without a lot of trials and tribulations. It is heartbreaking knowing that at
such a young age a child is struggling to overcome past traumas and due to his
tender years, he is not exactly equipped to fully overcome and banish the
resultant pain. You can sense that he would love for nothing more than to be
able to throw caution to the wind, simply let go of his fear and ultimately
bond with you, but you must fully understand that this does not come naturally
to him. Endless patience and love are required to establish initial trust and
slowly build a nurturing relationship with this little person who deserves all
the love he can get.”

It might
seem like an uphill struggle, and one which many would not even consider, but
Mary* believes that where these children are concerned, giving up is never an
option, “Children like John* have had traumatic childhoods, and as their carer,
making sure that you restore it back to them, should be your one and only
priority. The fear of abandonment features high in these children’s minds, so
commitment and above all providing them with the necessary peace of mind, which
was previously lacking in their lives, fosters the all-important bond.

“You must
show the child that he or she is a cherished and valued part of your family and
that they have total unconditional support whatever it is they’re doing,
whether they’re playing up or behaving properly.  And then one fine day, you realise that this
child is no longer having needless angry outbursts, that they are actually
reaching out to you, that they are finally able to smile and laugh with you and
that is the most gratifying day of your life,” Mary* exclaims with pride.

How would
she feel if John* who is now ten and whom she clearly adores, is sent back to
his natural family? “I will miss him terribly,” Mary* says with a hint of
sadness in her voice, “but I would be only too happy to let him go, knowing
that the situation within his natural family has improved to the extent that it
poses no danger to his happiness or wellbeing. I would be more than satisfied
knowing that as a family we would have provided John* with the tools to
understand what a loving, nurturing relationship is all about and which in turn
would help him in moving on towards healthy adulthood.

fostering is the key to a better future for children who through no fault of
their own cannot experience the wonderful joy of living and loving in a family.
It is irrelevant whether they will reach adulthood with or without you; the
most important thing is that you have provided a solid basis for a brighter,
emotionally secure future,” Mary* concludes with a smile.

have been changed

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