Short break foster care - Foster Care Fortnight

Rob and Lisa share their experience of short break fostering.

Short break foster care provides pre-planned, regular placements for children, often who have disabilities, special needs or behavioural difficulties. Short break carers could offer anything from for a few hours care each week, to a weekend every fortnight, or even longer periods during school holidays. Rob and Lisa are short break foster carers in Scotland – here they’ve shared their experience with us.

We’re Rob and Lisa, we live in Scotland, and we have been foster carers with our local council for around two years now. We began the process to become foster carers soon after we were married. It took about 9 months for us in total, after which we were approved as short breaks carers. We look after children for a short period of time, and often they come back to us regularly although this isn’t always the case, and the children who come to us come from both foster families and birth families.

Even before we were married, fostering and adoption was something we spoke about. We both had experience working with children and young people, some of whom had been in care. Lots of the stories we heard from these kids were really positive, but unfortunately many of the stories were not. And having heard these stories, we felt that we had a responsibility to step up and play our part. This was what lead us to discussing fostering and adoption during marriage preparation as we dreamt of what our family could look like; and this is what eventually lead us to picking up the phone and calling our local council to begin a conversation about fostering.

We didn’t enter into those conversations certain that short breaks was the perfect type of foster care for us, but we explored the different options with our social worker, and she offered short breaks care as something that could suit us really well. Both of us love our jobs, and this was a way for us to continue working alongside fostering. We are young, we were not long married, and didn’t have our own birth children at the time, and so short breaks also felt like a more manageable transition for us than jumping from having no children straight into school runs, meetings, contact and everything else that comes with longer term care. On top of short breaks suiting our lifestyle, it was something that there was a real need for in our area; the council already had quite a lot of longer-term foster carers, but they were in pretty urgent need for more respite and short breaks carers to ensure that those longer-term carers were supported and had longevity. We really felt like we had something we could offer to help meet this need.

Usually before a child comes to our home, we’ll have had a chat with their parent or carer ahead of time, and often the child comes with some kind of schedule or timetable. But if you only have them from a Friday night to a Sunday afternoon, then learning about them, getting to know them, and figuring out how to meet their needs – these things have to happen quite quickly. This is particularly challenging when it’s a child who we haven’t cared for before, or if we’ve just looked after another child with quite different routines, likes and dislikes. Building a relationship and really getting to know them certainly takes longer than if we were caring for this child 24/7. We had one little boy come to stay with us from his birth family, and at first he really struggled with his emotional regulation. But because we had him regularly over the period of a year, we were able to work with his family to figure out what worked for him, and over that year we saw some really positive changes.

We’ve always felt that if a child was coming to us for a weekend or the school holidays, then we wanted to make it feel like a holiday. We take day trips and plan activities, and often we have the opportunity to give a child an experience they haven’t had before, which is just so special – and this is probably the best thing about short breaks fostering for us. It’s not about spending loads of money; often we’ll just go to the climbing wall, or the beach, or the forest near our house. It’s the quality time spent together and the little moments and details that make all the difference. The sheer joy of wearing a pair of wellies and jumping in a puddle for the first time. Taking your first ever trip to the beach and feeling the sea on your toes. Even having a meal together, and sending them to bed with full tummies – whether they’ve been adventurous enough to try something new, or we’ve stuck to their familiar favourite fish fingers.

These are little moments that lots of people could take for granted. But as short breaks foster carers, we know the impact an afternoon of rest, a day of fun, or even just a change of scenery can have. We have the privilege to see that each of these moments we enjoy together can really mean the world.


If you think you could offer a vulnerable child a safe and loving home through fostering, or want to find out more about how you or your church can play your part in finding a home for every child who needs one, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.


Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
May 2021


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