I have never met a bad kid. Sometimes it only takes one person on one occasion to have a positive impact on someone, and this has really stuck with me. I think this is why my partner Janet and I started to provide respite care three years ago. It feels like we provide an oasis for carers, so they can have a break for a weekend. The kids are somewhere safe and we are giving hope and light and being a positive role model for the child.
Our kids are all grown up now and it’s just us and the dog. Janet works in the disability sector and my work is a little more flexible, so I am the primary carer when children come and stay.
We do respite care every second weekend. It is very rewarding and it’s a good balance where we can maintain our lifestyle and our relationship.
I still remember our first placement, a young boy who loved fishing. We spent many hours fishing that weekend. He found an old tangled-up cast net and repaired it himself. He was so focused and passionate about repairing that net.
I really enjoyed the journey to become a foster carer. I was impressed by the level of diligence. The home safety, background checks and the full assessment to see if we were suitable was very thorough. It took us about six months before we were ready.
Kids have had their own story and it’s important not to judge. We make sure that we have clear and precise boundaries in place and make these known when the children arrive. Our rules are pretty simple, when I say ‘stop’ it’s for safety reasons. Ask questions, you will never get into trouble for asking questions and finally have fun.
Our friendship group is a great support network for us. The kids come along to trivia nights, cricket games and whatever else we have planned that weekend. It is good for the kids to speak to other adults, have new experiences and it means the kids are participating in our lives while they are with us. We treat them the same as we would treat our own kids.
I know I need to look after my own health and be well enough within myself to look after kids. Practicing self-care, where you put yourself first rather than last, means you have the energy and passion to care for others. If I’m challenged, I ask myself how I can best serve the situation. Sometimes having the courage to walk away may be the best option, you just need to be aware that you have that option.
Respite care works for us, and for others it may be a good way to gain some experience before considering full time foster caring. Whatever you decide, make sure your family is on board, as you are all in this together.
*To protect the identities of the children and carers in this story, names and images have been changed.