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Foster carers needed to help give families a well-earned break

Cllr Janet Sanderson

A recruitment drive is being launched for a service to provide short-term foster care for families after its use fell dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic amid concerns over the spread of the disease.

The fostering service is looking for new carers to sign up for a short break scheme to offer support to young people while their families are given the chance to take a well-earned break.  

Executive member for children and young people’s service, Cllr Janet Sanderson, said: “If you are an energetic couple who would relish regular active weekends, we urge you to consider short break fostering.  You would be putting your skills and energy to work supporting a local family with a disabled child – we offer tax-free payments and allowances and, of course, the emotional rewards are enormous.”

Short breaks are usually for regular weekends or overnight stays and sometimes for outreach support or day care in between.  The aim is to ensure that the children have a positive experience, their needs are met and they are given the opportunity to enjoy new experiences and meet new people.  The child’s family benefits from a much-needed rest, knowing the youngster is in safe hands.

The skills, experience and interests of carers are matched with the needs of the children and those involved in the scheme will often build a strong bond with the youngster and their family over time.

Prior to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, the service was being used by 15 young people, who had about 60 short break nights each annually. 

However, while the offer of the service remained in place at the start of the pandemic, take-up fell to zero due to concerns over the spread of the virus among potentially vulnerable children.  

There are now just six short break carers in North Yorkshire as some have moved to different types of fostering while others have either retired or left the service. The service hopes to recruit at least five new carer households across the county.  Potential candidates would need to be able to offer at least one weekend per month.

A total of 17 young people are on Fostering North Yorkshire’s register for the scheme, with seven of them currently waiting for a carer.

Short break carer Alex and her husband, Lee, who are based in Harrogate, have been providing short breaks with Fostering North Yorkshire for about six years. They have three daughters of their own.

Alex explained their initial motivation was to use the couple’s experience of disability, which they had both gained through their professional work, to make a difference to the lives of local children.

Ben came to their home for short breaks for about four years. His needs included some physical caring and he also had some dietary needs and regularly woke up during the night.

He enjoyed his time spent with Alex and Lee’s family, bonding with their girls, with activities varying from dog-walking in the park to creating DVDs on his iPad, leaving him feeling relaxed and at home.

Alex said: “Ben’s parents were glad of the chance to recharge their batteries – and benefit from some undisturbed sleep.

“They also really enjoyed some time together without caring responsibilities and were very appreciative of this.

“We developed a genuine bond with the family and are still in touch with them – in fact we have just sent birthday wishes to Ben.

“Now Ben is older, he and his family receive tailored support in their own home.”

Anyone willing to offer at least one weekend per month to support a young person in North Yorkshire can contact Fostering North Yorkshire’s team online, via email at fostering@northyorks.gov.uk, or by calling 01609 534654.

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