- Ian and Mel - Foster carers
Fostering was something we had been considering for 12 years before we eventually decided to apply. By this stage, our daughter was 18 and she agreed that the time was right for us all. At first, we did respite care and I also had a job in a school. However, I soon decided to stop working and focus on fostering. We have had five placements in two and a half years and the girl we currently care for has been with us for eighteen months.
As foster carers we see what a big difference having a supportive family home makes to children and how the little things we all take for granted, such as learning to swim, can mean so much. There have been some very rewarding outcomes for the children we have fostered, including a little girl who went on to be adopted by a lovely family who we still see regularly. Knowing they are going to have a nice life eases the pain of saying goodbye when a child leaves us.
Foster carers need to be good listeners and be prepared to work with a wide range of people including the families of the children they foster, social workers, adoptive families and schools. We get good support from Cambridgeshire County Council and we found that our training helped us understand why children in care sometimes behave the way they do.
We get a real buzz from being foster carers and we thrive on being able to help local children who have had such a difficult start in life.
- Lynn - Foster carer
Over the 2 years that my husband and I have been fostering we’ve cared for teenagers who have been through a wide range of experiences and have come from very different backgrounds. We have often found that they have very low self-esteem and a negative view of their futures. It can be difficult, but we work hard to gain their trust and show them that they can have a positive future to look forward to.
We already have some great memories from our time as foster carers, particularly when we have been able to give young people in our care the opportunity to experience things many families take for granted, like taking a 15 year-old to the zoo for the first time. We also often keep in touch with the young people once they leave us and it is wonderful to hear good news stories from them on their progress, such as getting jobs or moving on from problems with drugs or alcohol.
Foster carers need plenty of energy and stamina and you need to really enjoy the company of teenagers. It helps to have a sense of humour and to be open minded and up for a challenge.
- Barbara and Neil - Family Link carers
Jake is 8 and lives in Sawston. He has been visiting his Link carers Barbara and Neil for over 4 years. They collect him on Sunday mornings, leaving his parents, Sharon and Jonathan, much needed time to relax and spend quality time with their other children.
Sharon said, “I always sleep in bed with Jake because he has seizures through the night, so I often feel very tired. Jake is very strong willed and active, when he’s at home we have to keep all the doors and windows locked to keep him safe. To have just a few hours when I can switch off and spend time with our other kids or have chance to do the small things other people take for granted, like have a shower uninterrupted, makes a huge difference”.
Neil and Barbara live round the corner. They have a well-established routine of activities which Jake enjoys each week. Neil explained, “we just do simple things like go for a walk to buy the paper then play football, teach Jake card games and make fresh orange juice. We also take Jake out for trips to nearby places like the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge where he loves having hot chocolate”.
Sharon added “Jake’s Link carers are a big part of his life, one week we were away so he wasn’t able to spend time with them and he reminded me that Sunday should be a Barbara and Neil day!”
Neil and Barbara have been involved in the Family Link Service for many years and have built up a number of long-term, close relationships with disabled children and their families. They said “the role can have challenges which you have to consider before applying, especially if you are a Link carer while your own children are growing up. But friends who hear about our work and the difference it makes are often tempted to become Link carers themselves and we always encourage anyone who is interested to come forward and find out more.”
- Janet - Family Link carer
Janet lives in Huntingdon and has been a Link carer for over 20 years. Janet said “Link appealed to me and my husband Terry because it gave us the opportunity to help disabled children and their families in a way that fits well with our own lifestyle The children we care for take part in family occasions and we take them to social events we’re invited to”.
Alongside working 4 days a week, Janet has been caring for 16 year-old Tia, also from Huntingdon, for two nights a week over the last nine months. Tia is unable to speak, but a strong bond has built up between her and Janet, allowing them to communicate effectively. Staying with Janet gives Tia the time and opportunity to enjoy all her favourite activities. “Tia loves taking long baths, playing with noisy toys and watching her favourite cartoon. She responds really well to sensory experiences and loves having a ride in my convertible car with the roof down.”
Tia’s mum Tracy also benefits greatly from the time Tia spends with Janet. Tia wakes frequently at night and is up very early in the morning, so her mum needs regular breaks. Tracy also has three other children at home, including seven year old Nicole (pictured) and the respite care offered by Link allows her to spend more quality time with them.
Tracy said “I feel very confident leaving Tia to stay with Janet and Terry and I know Tia loves spending time with them. Whenever we walk past she tries to pull me towards their house because she wants to see them”. As a Link carer, Janet has cared for children with a wide range of needs and receives special training for each individual child. However, there are still challenges involved in the role.
Janet explained “You have to be able to cope with being completely responsible for a disabled child in your own home. Potential carers should also be prepared for a rigorous assessment, but this is a necessary part of the process and is really important to ensure that you are right for the role”. “There are huge benefits to being a Link carer and you can work the hours that suit you. So if you have any spare time, come forward to find out more.”
- Phil - Supported Lodgings
Phil, from Cambridge, is a single carer who also works full-time at a local school.
“I’ve been a Supported Lodgings carer for Cambridgeshire County Council for ten years and in this time I have enjoyed the rewards which come with seeing the difference you can make to a young person at this important stage in their lives. It can be challenging but there is lots of helpful, practical support available.”
- Angel - Supported Lodgings
“The supported lodging environment made the transition from foster care to care leaving so much more comfortable than I can imagine the other options offered to me would have been. I have amazing support from the people I live with and I really feel a part of the household.”