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Shanice tells her short break fostering story

Short breaks are a different type of fostering. “Putting a smile on the girls' faces and opening up their eyes to different experiences has definitely been the most rewarding part so far.”

April 24 2024 - 4 min read

From her first taste of fostering at 12 years old, when her mother became a foster parent, Shanice was set on becoming a foster parent herself.

Local foster mum Shanice Watson is a single, ‘short breaks’ foster parent from Dudley/the West Midlands. She has been caring for two sibling girls for almost three years through a local agency, Fostering People. She wants to raise awareness about this unusual type of fostering.

Short breaks is a different type of fostering for children with disabilities, but a vital support for families.

Unlike standard fostering where children are in care because they are unable to live at home, children using the short breaks service are not in care and live with their families.  But due to their disabilities and/or family circumstances, children and their parents receive regular breaks with a ‘short breaks’ foster parent.

Fostering People’s disability manager, Vicki Bradley said: “Short break fostering is vital as it allows parents time to recharge their batteries and for children to have access to new opportunities and experiences - a chance to build new trusting relationships.”

As a respite carer, you choose your availability, enabling you to easily work alongside fostering. Shanice works full-time at her local hospital, but once a month looks after the two girls over a weekend.

Shanice said: “I have a great bond with the girls I look after, I’ve known them for 6 years now.

“Putting a smile on the girls' faces and opening up their eyes to different experiences has definitely been the most rewarding part so far.”

This vital support that Shanice gives enables the family to take a well-earned break to recharge their batteries, or have some much needed time for themselves. She also enables the two girls, who have global development delay to enjoy new experiences and opportunities.

Looking after the two girls consistently enables Shanice to directly see the benefit her care has on the family. She said: “It’s really rewarding when I drop the girls back and the parents are really appreciative and say things such as, ‘thanks so much, we’ve had a really good night's sleep, ' or ‘I’ve managed to go food shopping.’

“Being a parent myself I appreciate the help and understand how a couple of hours to yourself can make such a difference, so I’m glad I can bring that sort of joy to their lives.”

Short breaks foster parents are supported in the same way as other foster parents they have an allocated supervising social worker who is experienced in disability. Short break support groups are offered as well as access to children’s participation events, face-to-face and online training.

For those considering becoming a short break parent, Shanice has this piece of advice: “Ease yourself in slowly, but go for it and have fun! You can make an incredible difference to young people and their families.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a short breaks foster parent you can visit click here.

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