Welcome to IFCO’s web page for young people!
You may be a child or young person in care, you may be about to leave care, or you may have recently left care. You may be the biological child of a foster carer. In fact, you may not have had a care experience or any connection to foster care but are interested in foster and kinship care, especially from a young person’s viewpoint. For all of you, we hope this page and its links are useful.
IFCO works to ensure that foster care is about the needs of children and young people. We want every child in the world to live with a family (if this is what they want) and to be able to grow up in a home where they feel safe and loved.
Most governments across the world recognise the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This Convention applies to any young person between between birth and 18 years of age. The Convention gives you rights.
One of the rights children and young people have is the right to a family life. If you cannot live with your own family for whatever reason, your government should provide you with alternative care and in so far as is possible and suitable that care should be within a family setting. In that family you should receive love, acceptance and care.
UNICEF (the UN children’s organisation) provides a summary of the UNCRC. We at IFCO believe it is important for children and young people to know about their rights. You can see the UNICEF summary here.
UNICEF Australia has made an animated video starring Ruby and Jack who explain the UNCRC to younger children. If you want to watch that video click here.
There are two rights for children which are special:
1. The right to have your interests put first in any decisions which affect your life.
2. The right to have a say in your life and to be listened to.
These two rights are important for the following two reasons:
All organisations working with children and young people should always put the children’s and young persons’ interests first.
Children and young people should be given a voice to have their opinions heard. In other words, adults must listen to children and young people and take their views into consideration. This does not mean you will always get what you want, but it does mean you can have a say in any decision about your life.
In its work IFCO wants to put children and young people first and we want to hear your voice. We also want others to hear your voice, and IFCO wants to help you to be heard.
At its international conferences IFCO provides a safe space for young people who are either in care or who have left the care system, to come together to discuss the issues of importance to them.
The next IFCO conference is in Montreal in June 2020. If you wish to attend the conference, we would love to see you there. If you cannot afford to pay to go there you could apply to IFCO’s Pat Whelan Fund.
If you are a young care-experienced person under the age of 30 years and you would like to attend the next IFCO conference but cannot afford to do so, why not apply to IFCO for financial assistance to support your attendance?
IFCO provides financial support through the Pat Whelan Fund for care-experienced young people. More information is available here.
Many children and young people who are in care live with foster carers. In fact, in many countries this is the type of care that most out-of-home children experience. For some children living with a foster family is all they know if they have been in care since a young age. For others, the experience begins when they are older. For them the fostering experience can be more difficult as they have lived with their biological or adoptive family for much longer and the separation from their own family can cause them much pain. For many, foster care works out well, but for others it does not.
Here are some resources from other organisations which may be helpful to you if you are currently in foster care. This might also be useful for children and young people in other forms of care.
This short video has been made by the U.S. organisation Casey Family Programs in which young people who were in care share their experiences of life in foster care.
A really important issue for children in out-of-home care is maintaining contact with their siblings. The Australian organisation, Create Foundation, which represents the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience, have made this video about sibling contact which may be of interest to you.
Are you LGBTQ and your carers are supportive but find it hard to find the right language to communicate with you? This video, also from the Create Foundation, gives young people who are LGBTQ a voice to inform carers of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ in their interactions with them.
Bryce Grove, is a young Australian boy, who won the 2019 KDY school writing prize for his non-fiction essay ‘Normal’. Bryce asks the question ‘What is a normal childhood? Is there even such a thing? There is always more to the story; all you have to do is ask’. In his essay Bryce reflects on his experiences as an Aboriginal boy in foster care in Australia.
Ageing-out of care (a requirement to leave care when you reach a certain age, normally 18 years) can be a most challenging phase in a young person’s life. For any young person, the transition into young adulthood from being a teenager can be a scary prospect, but for those ageing-out of care, moving into the adult world can be even more daunting. A young adult is rarely required by their family to leave the household that they’ve grown-up in when they turn 18. But that’s what happens to young adults who leave the care system. You may have been in care from a very young age and remained with the same family throughout your life and then find you aren’t able to stay when you turn 18. The state has no longer the legal responsibility to look after you, so they will not continue to pay for your upkeep and care. In some countries they may continue to reimburse carers until the young person in their care gets to 21 so long as they are in education. Foster carers may want to continue supporting the young care leaver who has possibly lived with them for many years, but they may be unable to do so due to financial or other reasons.
How do those ageing out-of-care get through this part of their life? Some continue to get the support of their foster carers and they move into adulthood like any other young person. For others, things do not go so well, and they may find themselves struggling as adults. Increasingly, public authorities are being called out on how young people leaving care are being treated by the system which should be there to support them. As a result, some changes are happening and there are more resources being provided to assist these young people. However, this response is not consistent across all countries or even within countries and IFCO believes that much needs to be done to improve the system for those leaving care.
Melanie Doucet from Canada, who is a Board Member of IFCO, and a former youth-in-care, has collaborated on a project with a group of eight young people from Vancouver in British Columbia who have experienced care. The project was called Relationships Matter for Youth ‘Aging Out’ of Care Project and included a video which examines the pathways to supportive long-term relationships for youth ageing out of care.
The second output from the project is a photo eBook. The same eight young people from the video contributed beautiful photos and reflections on their relationships with people, places and pets.
For many of the foster carers’ biological and adopted children the experience of fostering is a wonderful and beneficial experience for them and for the foster children who join their family. Foster carers’ own children are hugely important for a successful fostering outcome, but they can be forgotten in the foster care relationship. There is a focus on the rights of children in care, but the rights of the foster carers’ own children must be considered too. So, for instance, when parents decide they want to foster they should fully consider the views of their biological and adopted children in this decision. If this does not happen the fostering experience may produce a negative impact on their own children. The active participation of their own children in decision-making may go some way towards preventing problems. Decision-making is not just a one-off consultation with the carers’ own children, it must be ongoing throughout the placement. A lack of appreciation of the importance of consulting these children is not just a challenge for foster carers, it is also a challenge for social workers.
IFCO believes that the commitment to the rights of all children in the fostering relationship should be honoured. To do this, the foster carers’ biological and adopted children need to be involved in decision-making about their lives, they need to receive training, they need the opportunity to talk to other children who are going through a similar experience, and they may need special assistance when a placement comes to an end to help overcome loss and sadness. Training should also be provided for foster carers and social workers on how to include the children of foster carers in decision-making and how to make the fostering experience work for them.
Wanslea Family Services in Perth, Western Australia have developed a resource pack called Fostering Together: Resources to Support Sons and Daughters of Foster Carers. These are tools to help the children of foster carers to make sense of fostering.