Friday, February 02, 2018


A reader asks if all foster carers are expected to provide respite care especially if they themselves might want respite from a placement.

The short and simple answer is no, never. Not at Blue Sky anyway, not in my experience. Nothing like that at all goes on.

"Respite" care - if you're new to fostering - is where a child will stay with a different foster carer for a short period of time, usually to give the regular carer a break. We had a child stay for an extended weekend because his foster parents were going to a family wedding 200 miles away, staying in a hotel, and wanted to give their relatives their best attention which wouldn't have been possible if the child had gone along. Just as importantly; the child would have felt completely out of it and could have got upset. 

There are loads of reasons why fostering needs carers who are happy to do respite care; maybe the child's foster family booked a family holiday before the child arrived and it's too late to get another seat on the same plane, or maybe the child has a disability and needs a high level of care in which case the carer needs a weekend off from time to time to tend to everything else. 

Some carers love giving respite care and become specialists at it. It's probably not for everyone, which is fine. We've had some great times with it.

We had a child stay with us because his foster family were going off on a winter break and he told his social worker the idea of "knocking around some naff hotel playing ping-pong and bingo" would drive him nuts. Fair enough.

Plus; and I'll not dress this up; some foster children are a handful, especially once they become comfortable in their foster home and trust their carers. People who haven't fostered find it hard to understand that a child waits until they know that their foster parents are decent, fair, kind and loving before they let out the anguish, fear and confusion they have bottled up inside.

That's when your average foster carer (if there is such a thing - in my book every foster carer is spectacular!) investigates whether a break would do everyone some good. It's not a surrender. Sitting down with your Blue Sky social worker and discussing the pros and cons of your foster child spending some time elsewhere is the professional thing to do.

There a big upside to respiting that is worth pointing out. Foster children and their carers usually enjoy what's often called a 'honeymoon' period at the start of the placement. The child is unsure of their new environment and hence are shy, obedient, polite and well behaved. The honeymoon can last a few days or a few weeks, depends on the child. So the benefits are; i) often the foster carers providing respite play host to a child who is a joy to have around ii) the child has to 'self-regulate' during respite in the new home ( a second honeymoon!) and might learn a more even disposition iii) the regular carers might find that the child has grown and matured during respite as a result of having to self-regulate for a period iv) the child might have ended up longing to be back in their regular foster home (not because they don't like the respite family but because they miss the familiarity of their own space, the household routines etc) and are delighted to go 'home'.

As for the question posed by the reader; 'Are carers required to do respite care?' The answer is, as far as Blue Sky goes; absolutely not. I can't speak for other agencies or local authorities, but I know that Blue Sky would never, ever, not for one moment, hold any carer to any kind of ransom deal where foster children are involved for a whole bunch of reasons chief of which is this:

The child is paramount. I know for a rock solid fact that Blue Sky places the welfare of the child above every other consideration and it would never enter the mind of any of their people to even consider compromising the care offered by any carer by making stipulations regarding which child they should take and under what circumstances. 

Children who come into care are usually acutely aware of everything and if a family were asked to take a child against the family's will the child would spot it a mile off and there'd be all sorts of issues.

I would hope with all my heart there are no organisations or authorities out there, anywhere in the world, who would engage in that sort of negotiation.

Having said that, I can understand the concerns of people thinking of becoming a foster carer, and am grateful to the reader for the question, and an opportunity to allay that worry.

BTW; I attended a brilliant training session last week on Life Story work. 'Life Story' is about helping a child make some kind of sense of what has  happened to them. 

During coffee we all agreed it helped us all make sense of our own lives! 



  1. Thanks, that did answer my question. We are going through our SECOND agency vetting, due to the first agency faffing around getting through our paperwork (over 8 months and not returning our calls or emails for weeks). The second agency said 'we will start you off doing respite care' when we said we wanted to do short term, transitional or long term. I then wondered if there was an expectation that all foster parents do respite care for each other. Thanks, we will go back to our agency to get clarification.

  2. Excellent news. And well done for sticking with it; your commitment will pay off in heaps. not only for you but for lots of children who need you.
    I suspect there's been a slight misunderstanding, your agency may have been trying to say that a good way to start is to ease in with a placement that has a clear and foreseeable end-date.
    Fostering has its impacts on your home and having your first child just for a weekend or whatever can be the sensible way to get going.
    Good luck, welcome to fostering, and on behalf of many, many poor dear children; thank you for taking the job on.

  3. Can you do a post on what to do to prepare for foster kids? We have an emergency clothing supply, some nappies of various sizes, toys and toiletries. Do we wait until the child arrives before buying things, that way they have some choice and input? What about soft toys and cuddly rugs or comfort blankets? Thank you ❤️ We are doing short term and long term foster care - ages 3-10 yrs.