Co Armagh couple started fostering disabled children during pandemic

A Portadown couple, who became foster carers for children with disabilities a year ago, share their love of the experience.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 5:15 pm

Taking on the ‘challenging but rewarding role’ as a Short Breaks Carer isn’t easy at the best of times but it presented its own challenges to Angela and Vincent Little in the middle of a pandemic.

Angela saw how difficult it was for parents of children with disabilities to get a little time to themselves and decided to have a chat with her husband to see what they could do to help.

They both decided they could provide support to families and young people and become Short Breaks carers for the Southern Trust Children with Disabilities Team.

Vincent and Angela Litter.

Twelve months on Angela says that while they have faced challenges over the past year, they “love their experience of being short break carers” citing that it has been “very rewarding”.

Speaking during Foster Care Fortnight, Angela said: “I volunteer with Special Olympics and am aware of how difficult it is for parents to get time for themselves.

“I am also aware of the pressure for parents to find time for their other children and the pressure this can put on families due to the feelings of guilt and that the other children are missing out due to the huge amount of time the child with additional needs can require.”

They attend a lot of events with Special Olympics and it was because of the fun they both enjoy at these, they thought they would be able to provide support to families and young people.

“Vince and I love our experience of being short break carers. It has been very challenging but also very rewarding. Our experience has been a little different to what we initially expected as due to the needs of the child we look after, they can’t spend time with our extended family as well as ourselves.

“Currently we provide short breaks care to one child every other weekend. The child is brought to us by his carer and then we leave him home. He has very quickly become part of our lives and while it has been a long process we are enjoying the experience. We were introduced to the child and the time he spent with us gradually increased to suit both us and him. We have had to reduce the time the child spends with us at the minute as he seems to find it overwhelming at times. So I would say don’t expect things to be the same every time a visit is scheduled as one visit can be very different from another.”

Angela also had some advice for anyone thinking of becoming a short breaks carer.

“Explore your reasons for wanting to become a Short Breaks Carer and discuss them with those who know you best. If you are entering into it with a partner make sure you are both aware of what you are taking on. Use your link worker - our link worker Maria has been fantastic and we couldn’t do it without her.”

Angela added that she has also seen a different side to herself throughout the process!

“I have become more able to go with the flow. I would have said before I was hyper organised and needed everything planned out in advance. Short Breaks has taught me that life can be very unpredictable and sometimes you just have to go with the flow which Vince is loving!”

The Short Breaks team within the Southern Health and Social Care Trust has two main aims: to give parents or full time carers of disabled children and young people a break from their caring responsibilities and to enable disabled children to have social opportunities and join in with safe, fun and interesting activities.

Mark Irwin, Operational Manager Short Breaks, said: “Caring for a child is very, very difficult, caring for a child with a disability is ten times that and more. We urgently need carers now to fill those roles to help those families. People shouldn’t be daunted by the process it takes to become a Short Breaks carer as we have people from all walks of life who become carers.”

If you can provide a short break for a child with a disability get in touch with our team today – 02837 564340 or email [email protected] for more information.

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