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Could you help give a 'special' family a break?

Could you help give a 'special' family a break?

Thursday 24 May 2018

Could you help give a 'special' family a break?

Jersey's fostering and adoption team is urging islanders to come forward and help look after children with a disability or other complex health needs.

They are hoping to recruit 25 new foster carers able to look after children full time, or to provide short breaks for families with children who need a little extra looking after. Those breaks enable the children to experience new activities, while giving their parents the opportunity to rest and spend time together, or with their other children.

Emmy Lindsey, Team Manager at Fostering and Adoption Jersey, explained that the team is always on the look for more foster carers. "We need carers with different skills, experience, set ups for a variety of children," she says. With 50 children currently being cared for by 27 foster carers, the team is hoping to find 25 new recruits.  "This would enable us to offer a home for a child more quickly, and to care for more children with complex needs," Ms Lindsey says.

The fostering team is encouraging local families to consider looking after children with additional needs, for example children with autism, learning or physical difficulties. They are looking for foster carers who could take on the role full-time, as well as regular short breaks for the families of those children.

child play children

Pictured: Short breaks provide children with a disability and/or complex health needs with the opportunity to go out in the community.

Natalie Spooner, Team Manager of the Complex Needs Team, explained that those short breaks can really make a difference for the children. "It gives the children the opportunity to go out in the community. They get to be in a family with different activities, relationships and children. It gives them a choice of activities and options. It is about giving them the same chance as children without disabilities."

But the short breaks are also crucial for the children's parents, who are usually also their carers. Ms Spooner says: "Sometimes parents do not get any sleep, they have their jobs and the appointments for their children. It can be very taxing and cause difficulty in their relationship as well as worry. A short break can mean a couple can recharge their battery or spend time with their other children who miss out on time with them. It is a win-win situation."

Jeannine Gary Godefroy Foster Carers

 Pictured: Jeannine and Gary have been foster carers for four years.

Jeannine (50) and her husband Gary (60) have been fostering a little boy with autism for four years. He was their first but since then they have also fostered four other children. "Me and my husband got to the stage where all our children had grown up. We were sitting on the beach and looking at children. We were itching to build sand castles and wondered if we would be weird to help other people's children. I had previously looked at the fostering leaflet but after this we took the first step."

A qualified nurse, Jeannine worked in childcare and nannying, but she says it is not mandatory to look after a child with complex needs. Even so, she admits she was a bit worried before she met the little boy. "You learn alongside them," she explains. "It is not any different that with any other child. You need patience and understanding. It is important to take things at their pace."

While looking after children with autism can appear daunting, Jeannine stresses she has never felt on her own. The fostering team, as well as agencies and the professionals who work with the child are available for support. Jeannine has also done a lot of research and asked friends for advice. "At the beginning, we joined him in play, it was all about getting the relationship," she explained. "We worked a lot on his muscle memory and showed him what to do.

"Consistency is important. You have to be one step ahead and think about what you want in the long term. You have to make sure to work at their developmental age rather than their actual age."

Jeannine Godefroy Foster Carer

Pictured: "He He teaches us to see the world with different eyes," says Jeannine of the little boy she and Gary have been fostering.

Over the years, Jeannine and Gary have made "precious memories" with the little boy. Jeanine says they have both learned as much as they taught him. "He teaches us to see the world with different eyes," she explained. "To see things from his perspective and treasure the small things."

While Jeannine would like to see more and more families join the local pool of foster carers, she also wants families to understand that is ok to ask for help. "They are not failing by getting support," she says. Ms Spooner adds: "It is really tough for them, it is a constant challenge, for the whole family not just the child. The risk of family breakdown is very high when you don't get to rest.

"The feedback is very positive. When the parents know their child is happy and feeling safe and they see them coming back smiling, it releases the worry of not being there. There is a lot of guilt for asking which is why it is important to have a good relationship and to get it right from the beginning."

Members of the Fostering and Adoption Team, and the Complex Needs Team, will be at the Jersey Library on today, Friday and Saturday, from 10:00 to 16:00.

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