Ten things you can do to support families this summer

Ten ideas of small things you can do this summer, which might make a big difference to those who foster, adopt or provide supported lodgings.

For many families, the summer holidays can feel very long. For some children and teenagers, the long break from their regular routine can be particularly overwhelming, and this is often a time when families could do with some extra support, understanding and encouragement.

Here are ten ideas of small things you can do this summer, which might make a big difference to those who foster, adopt or care for teenagers through supported lodgings.

1. Share your plans and invite families to join you

Sometimes just thinking of activities that will fill up the long days and weeks can be a challenge. If you’re planning a fun day out somewhere, why not invite other families to join you?

Wherever possible, do this in advance so that families can prepare their children for what they will be doing, and when.

2. Offer childcare where appropriate

Some families will not be able to take you up on it because of regulations around who can care for fostered children, or because some children need the consistency of their regular carers, but others may be hugely appreciative of this - and remember birth children, who may not have the same restrictions.

So if you can offer to take extra children to the park for a couple of hours or for a day at the beach, do! A few child-free hours, or the opportunity to spend time one-on-one with children, can make all the difference to families.

3. Be flexible and prepared to adapt plans

If you have made plans, be prepared that they may have to change or be rearranged for any number of reasons. A meeting might come up, a young person or child might be struggling with something, contact plans may change – families often have to cope with things changing at the last minute. Do what you can to adapt when needed.

4. Treat the family to something

A voucher for the cinema, soft play, a meal or an ice cream will always be appreciated, and means the family can plan when best to use it.

5. Communicate church changes well

Many churches will run a different type of programme through the summer, perhaps offering less services or a paired down children’s ministry. If your church is doing anything different, communicate the details in advance with any families of care-experienced children or teenagers. Where possible, help them find a suitable arrangement that will work for the children and young people in their care.

6. Be sensitive

Many children who are in or who have experienced care will struggle with changes to routine, and as well as the lack of school, the long summer holiday is often a time when there are plans for moves or transitions, or perhaps different contact arrangements. Be aware that you may not know all that is going on.

7. Be available to listen

When things are tough, there may not be anything that you can actually do – there may not even be anything that carers, parents or hosts can do. But being ready to listen without trying to ‘fix’ things or offer easy answers will mean a lot. If it’s possible, take the primary carer out for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and let them know they have your full attention.

8. Recognise that holidays aren’t always possible, or positive

Most people look forward to their time away, whether it’s a cottage in the countryside or a villa by the sea. It’s natural to want to talk about it, share your photos, and ask about other people’s holidays.

Some families might not be able to do holidays in quite the same way, and the holidays they do plan might not always go as hoped. Issues with passports and permissions, children struggling in new environments, organising respite care and the surrounding feelings of that will all take their toll. Be aware that things might not be straightforward.

9. Keep inviting and including

Even if the family have had to say no to your previous invitations, or you know that including them will require you to do things differently, please do keep inviting wherever you can. It will mean such a lot to be included in your BBQ party or family day out.

10. Pray

It’s always needed, always appreciated, and always relevant! Commit to the family through prayer in every circumstance and season – it might just be what gives a parent or carer the strength to make it through the next few weeks.

Thank you for all that you do to support families in your community who care for children and young people through fostering, adoption or supported lodgings.

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