Sam is 8 years old and is seeing a psychologist every week as she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having this interferes considerably with her daily living and she is unable to enjoy playing, finds it difficult to concentrate at school and all these factors together are really impacting on her and her carers.
As part of a team they have a good support network – it is recognised they need a break, although they would rather not as Sam is worried about going into respite because when she has previously been, she never saw those carers again. The carers described living with her as very difficult and as if she was soaking up all their energy like a sponge and her suffering is being transferred to them.
Although I have long term children here I still find it interesting doing respite as you get to meet many children and young people, some have had more severe problems than others, but we have learned how to handle different situations over time. My role as a respite carer for the next 5 days is to give those carers a break and keep to her routine as much as possible, giving a safe and positive experience.
The initial visit is really important, it’s vital, it’s where you can meet the child not just read about them on paper – Sam came to visit I showed her around the house and her bedroom, she met the rest of the family – she was very quiet and her carers were on edge. I knew settling her in was going to be a big issue – it’s best to be prepared. During her visit she mentioned blue was her favourite colour – I saw a girlie blue sequined journal with a blue fluffy pen – I thought perfect and wrote a simple welcome to our house message and left it on her bed.
When she arrived I could see she was uncomfortable and she rushed upstairs to her room. I thought best to leave her for a while, then she came downstairs, she thanked me for the book, she smiled. The next day she looked more relaxed and she was telling me about a TV programme she liked, then she told me that she had wrote some things in her book about her feelings and told me that the first thing she wrote was “I hate it here” but then said “it’s not actually that bad”. It was soon time to be returned to her carers and she was pleased to see them.
In just a short time I could understand long term how draining she could be, respite allowed her foster parents to take a break, which helped prevent burn out.
My thoughts are – don’t just read what’s written about young people on paper, meet them and engage.
Emma’s Foster Care Blogs.
Emma A Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!