This guest post was written by Simply Fostering, a free support service for foster carers. 

Sad boy
Fostered children often have issues like wetting and soiling

Caring for fostered children can be challenging when dealing with the behavioural issues presented by children who've been neglected and possibly abused. Encopresis (soiling) and enuresis (wetting) are issues many foster carers have difficulty with, particularly when it involves older children. This can be an issue for a fostered child, as they may have a medical condition that has not been addressed. It may be because of the psychological difficulties they have experienced such as abuse, neglect and stress.

Needs assessment

An assessment of the child’s needs is crucial to try and identify whether there is a physical cause. The first point of call would be the GP and then a referral to a specialist would be the next stage to an assessment with a psychologist.

Stigma

For older children this can be extremely difficult as there is a stigma associated with soiling and many children and young people try to hide and conceal their problems.

Young people will do their utmost to avoid social situations, including socialising with foster carers and friends. They may refuse to go to school, avoiding activities which include undressing such as PE and generally behave in a ‘non-compliant’ manner.

Help from school

It can be helpful if the school are aware of the situation in order to put plans in place for accidents to be managed with minimal fuss. ERIC’s guide from its Right to Go campaign: ‘Helping schools manage continence problems’ outlines the importance of schools having individual care plans for children with bladder and bowel dysfunctions.

Coping mechanisms for soiling

Foster carers’ responses and reactions are crucial to working positively with a young person who is experiencing soiling. At the initial stages of the foster carer assessment, foster carer applicants are asked if they can work with young people who suffer from encopresis and lots of carers believe they can at this stage.

It can become problematic when working with a young person who has been dealing with problems alone as they may have some deep rooted strategies for dealing with their issues. These may include faecal matter being smeared, thrown out windows, concealed in bedrooms and hidden around the house.

Working with these behaviours can be extremely difficult for foster carers, who may see some intent behind the behaviours, when actually there is none and in fact these are just ways the young person has been trying to cope, possibly for a number of years.

Challenging but manageable

Resolving pooing and wetting issues can be challenging, as many behavioural issues presented by fostered children and young people can be. Foster carers need to be aware that these behavioural problems may take some time to change and in some cases may only be managed.

Expert advice, information and support is valuable for foster carers working through these difficulties and a good place to start would be the ERIC website.

Share your experience

Are you a fosterer who's helped children with continence problems? What difficulties did you encounter and how did you handle them? Share your comments below.