On occasion, we at UK Fostering do have the need for foster carers that are able to offer respite on a one-off for a few days or weeks, or more usually, a regular and ongoing basis.
This can be a big support to struggling parents (or other foster carers) that are caring for a child with a high level of needs, such as behavioural difficulties, medical needs or disabilities, or other complex needs that take a lot of time and energy for their parent or carer. Perhaps your support will allow them some rest or be able to give time to their other children whose needs have become overlooked.
As well as all the regular personal requirements such as patience, empathy, and a positive attitude to helping children and young people – and of course a spare bedroom! – respite foster carers also need to:
- Be very available and flexible – respite requirements can be needed at short notice over a weekend but also during the week. Sometimes a respite placement needs to extend for a day or longer so respite foster carers need to be able to rearrange other commitments to support the foster child during this time.
- Be able to care children from a large age range, e.g., 0-18 years, and also be able to confidently manage children who have challenging behaviours and/or additional needs. Any skills and experience with disabilities or medical needs are desirable.
- Be able to drive and have use of a car – this is a requirement as often you will need to collect a child after school and either return them to their parents or foster carers home after the respite period. These may not be the most local locations to you, and also your foster child may have additional needs that may make it more complex to manage via public transport.
- Be able to care for children not just at weekends (including after school on Fridays), but also for several days and weeks during school holidays, over bank holidays etc, a large amount of respite is needed at these times. Respite care can also sometimes be needed during the week only.
- Be able to commit to regular respite e.g., 2 weekends a month including at least 2 weeks in the summer holidays and 4 days a week in half term. This can be for more than one child on a regular basis, so can involve a bit of juggling around!
Perhaps this has got you thinking –
that sounds like something I could do!
To hopefully inspire you, even more, to consider respite fostering, for Foster Care Fortnight earlier in the year, one of our respite carers, Sandra, responded to let us know about her journey to deciding to foster and some of her experiences. Please see below:
- Your path to deciding to foster, e.g., previous care work experience, inspired by an acquaintance who fosters?
I work as a respite foster carer for UK Fostering and have previous experience working with the elderly and mentally ill in care homes. My full-time job is as a teacher of the deaf. The reason for choosing to become a foster carer was very selfish – my daughter was a teenager wanting to be with her friends out and about, and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands – alongside the school holidays. I had looked into foster caring a few years before delving in and got told that because I worked full-time, I was unable to do this. I had bumped into a friend, who had just started working for UK Fostering, and suggested respite care and having a chat with the owners to discuss this. From there on, my path began!
- When you started fostering, what were your expectations of what it would be like, and how it differed from reality?
In the beginning, I was quite naïve really. I thought respite foster carers would be looking after one or two children during school holidays and didn’t understand the system at all. I didn’t realise the demand for respite care, or the difference this would make to the full-time foster carers and children.
- What do you feel is the most rewarding aspects of fostering, and perhaps also the most difficult or frustrating?
Due to the nature of my role, I don’t really feel the frustrations for myself. I do however feel for the frustration the full-time foster carers for whom I respite care for feel. Especially during Covid, the legal systems have been very slow, and have let down some of the children.
The rewarding part is easy – seeing their smiley happy faces when they see me and know they are going to have a fantastic time on their play days and sleepovers! That in itself is enough. The extra reward is knowing that I am playing a vital role in the bigger picture of care – helping the full-time foster carers to have a little much needed time to themselves to recharge their batteries. The children feel the same too!
- Any funny or heart-warming anecdotes that you would like to share?
The funniest part of my role is that the children have such a fabulous time on their play days and sleepovers, they want to stay longer! On the way out of the door, they’re asking when their next stay is.
- What do your children and extended family feel about you fostering?
My extended family have been exceptionally supportive; and accepted my respite foster children into their hearts and our family – even when only for the short term. During conversations, they’re always asking how they are doing, have had a good time today, that they’re looking forward to seeing them again.
My teenage daughter has been outstanding. She shares her mum, home, and heart with our children. She calls everyone her foster brothers and foster sisters and is thrilled to have someone to call her sibling (only child!). I was initially worried about how attached she would become, but she has shown great understanding of their journey and is always pleased when progress is made in their lives. She has gleaned so much personal growth from knowing the children, and learning how to get along with them, and be super caring!
By Sandra, Foster Carer
Hopefully, after reading Sandra’s comments, you will be really inspired to consider becoming a respite foster carer! If you are working we are able to discuss respite fostering if you have lots of flexibility, as mentioned earlier. If you are working 12 hours or less a week then you can also consider short-term fostering of children aged 5-18 years – this could be anything from a few months up to a year.
Please do get in contact. Our friendly team are happy to talk through further with you.
Lynsey Dobbs, Senior Recruitment Officer – UK Fostering