Respite Fostering - Foster Care Fortnight

Foster carers share their experience of respite foster care.

Respite foster care exists to support children already living with foster carers, as well as some children who live at home with their birth family. Respite foster care provides a placement for a for a pre-planned short stay, usually for up to a fortnight, although in some circumstances it could be longer. A short-term change in routine, such as respite, can have a huge impact allowing both the parent or carer and the child a break and a rest, and respite carers play a huge part in supporting family members or long term foster carers, enabling them to return to their caregiving responsibilities refreshed. We spoke to Pads, Kirsty and Sarah, who shared with us some reflections from their time as respite foster carers.

In 2014 some friends who are part of our church family started short-term fostering and we became part of their support network. Soon after that we heard a member of the Home for Good team speak about the need for more foster carers and adoptive families, and we felt called to be a small part of the answer for the many children waiting for family in Reading. We felt that becoming respite carers would allow us to better support our own friends, as well as any other prospective foster carers in our church family and beyond. With very busy roles in the church, respite fostering allowed us (most of the time) to plan when we could support others – this wasn’t something that would be possible with other kinds of foster care.

After training and assessment, we were approved to offer respite foster care, and since then we’ve normally looked after children between 10 and 15 years old. Our friends at church had two children, siblings aged six and eight, placed with them as long-term carers. They have become like grandchildren to us, staying one weekend a month and usually a longer break in the summer.

We are completely in awe of people who foster full-time, and we know how important the respite care is to allow them the rest they need to continue the great work they do. Respite foster caring is certainly one of the most exciting, heart-wrenching, fulfilling, challenging things that we have ever done. If we weren’t called to full-time church ministry, we might have had a house full of foster children by now!

Pads and Kirsty, Reading


Respite care certainly has its challenges, every type of foster care does. As respite carers you have to develop a relationship very quickly with the child and with their carer so that you can respond to the children’s needs and maintain their routines. There may be more behavioural challenges until the children trust you and build a relationship with you. Another challenge is that you can’t always be fully prepared for what age or gender the children will be or how long you will give respite support for - our church network has been a huge support to us in this, lending toys and bedding, and sharing some ideas of things to do for children under five when the three girls came to stay with us.

We’ve experienced huge enjoyment from caring and building a family life for children that want to have fun, be loved and accepted and do the things children and young people do. Being able to support them with schoolwork, help them learn to ride a bike, take them fishing or climbing and ending the day with fish and chips – every one of these moments is a memory we treasure. The three girls we provided respite for were so much fun and very full of life, they loved to bake and to dance and sing. These things filled me with so much joy!

If you have the space, the time and energy, but not the ability to commit full-time, then respite can be a really good way to support children and another foster family. It might be for a break in the summer, for regular weekends or even just one night each month – but respite care really is vital to ensuring longer term foster carers have longevity and support, and you can’t underestimate the impact a few days or a weekend could have, or the difference you could make by caring for children in this way.

Sarah, London

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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Stories


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