The Importance of Respite.
The need to be you, every now and then.
When you are caring for children who have experienced trauma in their lives, at times it can be very demanding and draining.
There will be many times when you will sit with the children and listen to horrific details of what has happened to them, you will feel their emotions and the affects of their experiences.
Not only will you be looking after these children’s day to day care and all that goes with that, you will be providing therapeutic care. You will be their counsellor. When finally, a child takes the difficult steps in opening up to you, you will need to sit with them night after night, day after day and try to help them navigate their way through their experiences.
You will go to bed at night with visions, thoughts and feelings that will make it hard to sleep. We are constantly thinking, discussing and researching how we might be able to help, it becomes very difficult to switch off.
On top of this you will be living with a child/children whose behaviour will reflect the hurt and loss they have experienced in their lives. No day is the same when you are fostering, just when you think you are getting somewhere it can change like the weather.
There have been times when I have felt like screaming out of frustration but have to smile and sympathise instead. On a couple of occasions, I have sat down with my head in my hands because it felt so overwhelming.
Until you live with a child or children who have been damaged by their past it is hard to appreciate the emotions a foster carer can go through. I believe they refer to it as compassion fatigue.
There are many aspects of being a foster carer that do feel like a job, such as constantly living in your home with all of the demands of safeguarding, you just can’t rest on your laurels. Then there’s the meetings, reporting, training, risk assessments when you go away for a weekend or on holiday, having your expenditure checked etc, but unlike all other jobs, we don’t get a lunch break or work a 9-5, we don’t get a weekend off, bank holidays or at least 20 days holiday a year.
This is why respite is so important. As a foster carer you need to be able to kick off your shoes from time to time, be you again for a night or couple of days.
We are in an unusual and fortunate position whereby the children we care for have a wonderful well-established relationship with their Grandparents and they are allowed and encouraged to stay with them throughout the year.
For many carers this simply isn’t an option. More needs to be done to support foster carers to allow them time to themselves to re-charge so that they can be on their A Game. Foster children demand and deserve 100% from their carers but we are only human, and to be able to do this we all need a break from time to time.
Helen – A Blogging Foster Carer.