Holidays are one of the most common methods people use to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and see somewhere new. Whether you are flying to an exotic foreign land or jumping in the car and driving to a sandy beach or big city on a staycation, it all evokes the same feeling. A vacation is an exciting adventure for every single person that goes along for the ride after all and families that foster can have a great time too. Just like with birth children, there will be a few more things to organise, but holidays are absolutely an achievable goal for foster carers. Below is some advice for navigating and enjoying a holiday as a family who fosters.
Get Permission First
Before you book, plan, or tell your foster child or birth children about the holiday, it is essential to get the proper legal permissions from all the involved social workers. Typically, you as the carer will have your own social worker to support your needs and the foster child will have their own independent social worker, sometimes from the local authority. It is the children’s social worker that must give permission in regard to safeguarding and general risk assessment, but your team will also have to sign off on anything that is proposed.
Ask Your Birth and Foster Children for Input
Why not ask the children of the house where they want to go and what they want to do? Family holidays are for the whole family, so it makes sense that the young people in the house would have a say in what happens to a certain extent. Plus, it might make the trip run more smoothly if the kids feel involved in the planning and destination. Giving your young people decision-making authority in certain contexts is highly empowering and a definite confidence booster for their self-esteem, sense of awareness, and identity.
Always Pick Child-Friendly Locations
As the adult, however, you get the final say and your decision has to be something child-centric. For families who foster, a holiday is still a holiday but you will have certain obligations in line with your job as a carer while you are away. These include keeping busy and keeping safe. So, anywhere that welcomes young people and has plenty to keep you all entertained has to be at the top of the list. Warm sun and sandy beaches are great, but it wears thin after a few days and children need planned activities to keep them involved and present.
Book Lots of Planned Activities
The best thing any foster carer can do on a big adventure like a holiday is to plan every day to the minute. When you know where you’re supposed to be and have an idea of how the day should look, everything feels a lot more manageable. Given that foster care is a career as well as a calling, there is an allowance which will help cover the costs of the basic essentials and also be helpful towards holiday agendas too. You can read more about this at thefca.co.uk.
Do Mental Prep Work with Your Foster Child
Keep your foster child in the loop during all the planning stages and make sure they have a clear picture of how you will be travelling, how long it will take, and what will happen when you get there.
Make an Itinerary
Itineraries are great for showing someone where they’ll be and when they’ll be doing things. These are useful tools for anxious children, and as a foster carer, you may come across anxiety a lot so it is great to have tools that mitigate that in a variety of contexts.
Make a Packing List Together
One of the biggest things to work through will be making sure everyone packs what they need. As a child gets older, especially during the teenage years, packing becomes a highly autonomous and personal thing. So, you can be involved, but your involvement will be less than it was in previous ages. As an adult caring for a child in the world of fostering, you have to respect their privacy and their boundaries. So, what you can do is take proactive and positive steps to ensure your foster child will have what they need when you are all away from the main safe base.
- Give them a list! Lists are really useful things to have and are a visual tool of assistance for people who are prone to forget things or similar.
- Ask them to check things off the list as they pack them in the bag.
- Pack an emergency bag just in case they forget any essentials like toothbrushes and chargers, or socks and pyjamas.
- Accept that some things might not make it along for the journey and you will have to plan for that.
Plan Travel Entertainment
The last point is all about the journey. Do the children in your care get restless on longer journeys? Will you, therefore, need to plan to stop along the way? Do they suffer from travel sickness or will they be able to watch media style entertainment on the way? Think about these questions carefully and make provisions for every circumstance. There must be snacks, there has to be music, and if you are travelling more than a couple of hours, try to throw in some strategic stops. Even if those stops are just a wander around the services and stretching your legs, it can make all the difference to a journey. Children get bored (understandably so), and it is harder to regulate our brains when we are understimulated. Therefore, it is your job to stay ahead of the curve and help them out.
Navigating a holiday as a family that fosters is just like any other unit with children, with a few extra considerations along the way. A part of your role as a foster carer is to enrich the lives of your foster children and vacations are not only important downtime but a way to see new things and experience the world in a different context.