Could you share the care?

Could you help care for a child with disabilities? This week is ‘Share the Care Week’ and Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Councils are asking people to consider if they could make a positive difference to the lives of disabled children and young people and their families.

The council’s Family Link service offers family-based short breaks to disabled children and young people. These breaks give the child some quality time and new experiences while their parents and siblings can spend time together or find the time to do other things they need to, like attend appointments and go shopping. The scheme works by matching the parents of disabled children with foster carers who can look after their children for a limited time so that the parents and siblings can spend time together.

Denise Carroll, who has been a Family Link carer since April 2010, said: “When our daughter was a baby she was very ill and required treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The months of treatment she underwent were very traumatic and simple day to day family activities became hard for us to keep up.

“We were very lucky and she is now progressing well and in mainstream schooling but it made us realise that we wanted to offer respite care for other families who may face months or years without the time to lead a ‘normal life’ every once in while.

“We now look after a little girl for a day every month. We really look forward to her coming to stay and knowing when she will be arriving and when she will be going home enables us as a family to set aside some time to focus on someone else. It is a great chance to stop, count our blessings and give both her and her family a little bit of a break.”

Cllr Anita Lewis, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “These sort of short breaks are a lifeline for families. They give parents and carers the time and space to recharge their batteries and are also valued by the children, who benefit from new experiences and spending time with new people. It can be challenging but the rewards are incredible and if you are considering fostering in future or would like to foster but don’t have the time to do it full-time, providing short breaks is another option to consider. It can be hugely satisfying to know you are making a big difference to the lives of these families. All children are different with different needs so we are looking for a wide variety of people.”

Cllr David Sawyer, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Bedford Borough Council, said: “We need foster carers who can commit a fortnight, a weekend, a day or even a few hours a week on a regular basis. Whatever a person can spare could benefit both the family and disabled child no end. This service provides invaluable support to the family dynamic and also gives the disabled child an opportunity to enjoy new experiences and build new relationships.”

The Bedfordshire Fostering and Adoption Service is a shared service that covers both Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council areas. We strive to find families for children who cannot live with their birth families and who have a plan for adoption.

Central Bedfordshire Council accepts applications for its Family Link and fostering service from married people; single people; unmarried couples; same sex couples; those with their own children; retired people; homeowners or unemployed people. We will provide full training and support to all those who become carers to enable you to meet the child’s individual needs.

Family Link foster carers offer a regular commitment to a child and family who are carefully matched with them, and offer care ranging from a few hours at a time to a few nights on a weekly or monthly basis. How much time you can commit to the scheme is up to you, as long as you can make a regular commitment to a child and their family to meet their needs.

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