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Respite can be extremely positive for children and carers alike but the change in routine and environment can also be disruptive. In this blog Cathy Glass describes her experience of providing respite care, what she's learned and how much of an impact respite carers can make on the lives of children and young people.

Like many carers when I first began fostering, many years ago, I looked after children for a while on a respite basis. This could be anything from a weekend to a month, and it was to give the child’s parents or permanent carers a break.

I naively approached this respite care in the mistaken belief that there wouldn’t be any behavioural issues, as the children, ‘guests’ in my house, would be on their best behaviour. I was soon proved wrong. Far from the children being on their best behaviour, they saw the change in routine and boundaries as an opportunity to overturn all they had learned and give me a hard time.

You live and learn.

Now, I always make sure I have a clear understanding of the routine and rules for good behaviour that the child is used to, and I uphold these, making any adjustment necessary for the child to fit into my household. The child therefore knows the expectations of routine and boundaries and everyone, including the child, enjoys their stay.

It is also surprising just how much the child can take with them, and remember. Recently I met a lad of 14 who I’d fostered for a week’s respite when he was eight. I was astonished when he greeted me: he remembered not only my name but the details of the week he’d spent with us six years previously. Fortunately he remembered his stay for all the right reasons and said how much he’d enjoyed it. At the time he’d been quite challenging and I remembered I’d had to be very firm. It just goes to show that even in a very short time you can do some good.

Cathy Glass