What is it like to be a foster carer?
As part of our #Fun4All campaign, this article aims to spread awareness of the current Foster Care Fortnight, an annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and show how foster care can transform lives! The 2018 campaign runs from May 14 to May 27
As foster carers, we provide respite care only, which means we have children of all ages (but mostly between six and 16) for short periods. These periods can be from one night to a few days and is often unplanned. We also have children who need regular respite – this is planned in advance. Respite care could be, for example, one weekend in six, or it could be for a week each half term or in the long holidays.
Respite care is given to parents or carers who need some time off and they often have children who can be challenging. As well as providing a break for the families, it also means a change of scenery for a child who may be going through a particularly difficult period in their lives.
Children are usually in care because of a difficult family situation. This may be due to the death of their parent(s) but more often than not it is because they have been neglected or mistreated in some way. They may have witnessed domestic violence, or adults abusing drugs or alcohol. The removal of a child from their birth family is traumatic and hugely affects how they view adults and society in general.
The children who need respite have usually been with another foster family and have had to adapt to their new circumstances, together with the adults that are now significant in their lives. Then they come to us and have to learn our ways and what we are like as their provider, albeit for a short time.
We have a somewhat easier job than their main carers as we can be seen to be more like an aunt, uncle or grandparent, where we can spoil them a little – and as such do not have the responsibility of school routines, household tasks and everyday living requirements. However, we would not undo the routines, boundaries and acceptable behaviours that have been established in their main home; our ethos is to ensure the children have fun and have access to individual attention for the brief time they are with us.
When the children arrive for the first time we allow them to explore their environment; their bedroom is vitally important to them. There are always plenty of books, games, toys and art materials already in their room. Outside we have bats, balls, a football goal together with plenty of space to run around. For older children, we also have a pool table. As a family we are active, enjoy sports and play a lot of games. This makes having fun easier whilst at the same time allowing them to develop skills that play can give them.
The skills gained from playing games or doing sporting activities can be transferred into their school life where they come up against other children. Games allow children to learn rules, take turns, share as well as how to lose.In their everyday life they will need to share, wait for someone else to do something before they do it (turn taking), abide by rules and boundaries and face disappointment (losing).By playing games they absorb these life skills without realising it.
Guest author: Sue Nicholas, a respite foster carer
This post was written by Fundamentally Children