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Carina's story

'I have been married to my husband Steve for 37 years. We live in a private detached property in the Dovecot area of Liverpool.

'We have three children and two grandchildren. Christopher who is 36 lives with his wife Bridie and their six-month-old son Joseph in Sheffield. Susan is 34 and still lives with us at home with her son Daniel who is 16. Jennie, our youngest daughter, is sadly no longer with us. She passed away 12 years ago aged 17 from a degenerative brain disease.

'Jennie is the reason behind our decision to become short break foster carers. We were lucky enough to have a lovely partner family for Jennie before she became too poorly and needed more specialised care.
Jennie spent many a happy weekend break with them. She was spoilt rotten whilst she was there, and we were able to recharge our batteries knowing she was safe and being well cared for.

'This also gave us the opportunity to spend quality time with our other two children doing things they wanted to do which was not possible to do when Jennie was with us. We became short break carers six years ago after having discussed it at length with family and friends. We felt the time was now right.

'As Steve and I both still worked full time the idea of short breaks appealed to us as we knew this was something we could commit to. Due to our experience with Jennie, and the fact that I have always worked with children with special needs and disabilities,  we decided to foster children with complex needs. We had already altered our home to provide a downstairs bedroom and bathroom for Jennie. We felt we had a lot to offer children who came to us by providing a positive enjoyable experience for them.

'When we became short break carers we were linked with two children who would come on alternate weekends once a month. They would each stay Friday afternoon until Sunday. Over time we have had five links and at present have a little girl and a little boy who come for a weekend on alternate months.

'The children we have looked after have had a wide range of different needs. We have had many happy times but along with some difficult challenging ones.

'One upsetting time for us was when our first short break link broke down. While the little girl loved coming to us and we loved her coming here, there was a breakdown between ourselves and her carers which led to them not wanting to continue. At the time, this made us question if we should carry on. However, we both felt strongly that we had given the little girl a very positive and enjoyable time whenever she had been with us, and were sorry when she no longer came. 

'Our second link was with us for four years and was our most challenging. While most of the time she was a happy soul who loved everyone and everyone loved her, she had some very aggressive and quite violent outbursts. These were often difficult to deal with and could last anything from a few minutes to over an hour. 

'Due to her behaviour her family needed more support than we could offer and she had to leave us. Despite the challenges we have faced from each of the children in different ways, it has been one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. We have built up very positive relationships with all the children and their families.

'Our best reward is when a child comes to us and has grown in confidence so much that they wave away their parents with a big smile instead of tears. Parents take confidence from this as they know their child is happy and enjoys the time they spend with us. We would encourage anyone to become foster carers as whilst it can be very hard work at times the positives far outweigh the negatives.'