Short break foster care | Oxfordshire County Council

Short break foster care

Offers families a break from caring while their child enjoys spending time with a short break carer.

two girls and woman on sofa

About the scheme

The short break scheme offers children with disabilities regular planned breaks with you in your home, one weekend per month. It’s a way of being able to foster even if you work full time.

As a short break carer you will be providing vital support to a disabled child and his or her family. By providing regular short breaks around your daily life, you will become part of a child’s life whilst providing their parents with a break.  You will be giving a disabled child the chance to become more confident and gain some independence whilst being able to experience exciting new opportunities with you.

Most families are looking for one or two overnights a month, but this won't happen immediately. You will all get the chance to get to know each other and feel confident first.

You can be matched with more than one child, caring for them at different times. You will be working closely with parents, the county council fostering team and other professionals who will all work to ensure that everything goes smoothly and that the child is happy.

Short break carers are urgently needed to look after disabled children on a regular basis. Training and support is given.

What do I need to be a short break carer?

Short break carers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. To be a short break foster carer:‚Äč

  • you need one weekend a month spare
  • you need motivation, energy and must enjoy having fun
  • you need to enjoy working with parents and children
  • you need a willingness to help a disabled child realise their potential
  • you do not need any special qualifications or experience.

Angela Warner talks about being a short break carer

"The Short Break Scheme gives regular opportunities for families of disabled children to have a break from caring while the child enjoys spending time with a short break carer. They provide opportunities for children with disabilities to make new friends, develop their independence and enjoy new activities, and make a huge difference for families involved.

"I have been a carer to Dontay, who is the first child I have looked after, for 18 months. He is a very sweet little boy, who has significant needs – he is blind, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He is four years old, but has the development of a six month-old baby. Despite his slow development, Dontay has recently started to sit up and move by rolling around, which has caused both me and his mum such joy.

"Dontay has become very much a part of the family. He stays with us every other weekend, arriving on Saturday morning and going home on Sunday evening. On the morning Dontay arrives, I give him breakfast and then do some physiotherapy. After that, I take him to the local school for Saturday Club, where he enjoys scrambled egg and hot chocolate. Everyone looks forward to seeing him as he is quite a comedian in the way he interacts with people.

"Dontay is tube fed at regular intervals, to ensure his weight is stable and he receives plenty of fluids. But this doesn’t stop me taking him out for lunch; in fact, having Dontay to stay doesn’t stop me doing anything! I take him shopping at the supermarket, to my mum’s for a cuppa and to visit friends, where he now has his own special rug. Trips out are about allowing Dontay to have experiences that use all of his senses, for instance a trip to the garden centre where he can smell the flowers.

"Luckily Dontay normally sleeps through from 7pm to 8.30am, so I get a good night’s sleep, leaving me refreshed and ready for the next day. The morning begins with chill-out time, where we all sit down together to listen to CDs – Dontay loves to listen to music.

"I have a good relationship with Dontay’s mum, which is very important, as our two families need to work together as Dontay gets older and his needs change. The relationship took time to develop, until Dontay’s mum felt comfortable with me having him overnight. Building up this trust was an important process, as the short breaks arrangement not only gives Dontay independence, but also his mum the chance to have some much needed time to recharge her batteries.

"I am proud to be able to do my bit to help and being a short break carer is almost like being an aunty. It was something I’d always wanted to do and though I had some experience of working with children with disabilities, the main skills needed are good communication skills, patience, tolerance, the ability to work well with others and to love a challenge. There was some training involved, such as first aid and manual handling, and training tailored to Dontay’s needs was also provided. The process did take some time, but it was all worth it now that we have Dontay in our lives. My two children get on well with him and they have great fun together.

"It is very much the whole family who is fostering, and caring for Dontay has taught us a lot. He brightens up our lives and we can’t wait for his next visit. Dontay is fascinating – the way he responds differently to people and can tell who’s who as soon as someone comes into the room. He is similar to a cat – sometimes he can be very unsociable and push you away, but when he wants a cuddle, he soon makes it clear by snuggling into you. He is very responsive and caring for him is extremely rewarding. He has recently starting being a little naughty, but this is great – it is not part of his disability but normal behaviour that shows he is just like any other little boy.

"We desperately need more people to come forward as short break carers and look after a disabled child. If you too could make a big difference, then go for it and don’t give up. It does take time but is the best thing ever, better than winning the lottery – every single day is different."

Last reviewed
31 October 2017
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