The Bury Shared Lives matching process is mysterious to those of us on the outside of it, so we've asked the Bliss family and their newest member, Sarisa, to let us know what it's like to go through it.
Joanne Bliss tells us -
How we became Bury Shared Lives carers
'We had been foster carers for a couple of years and had had a number of short term respite placements, but we got no longer term ones so we decided to take a break from it. A relative in Manchester told us about the Shared Lives scheme there, so we went online and found Bury Shared Lives. Our children were now young adults and we felt we could offer a stable and loving family to Shared Lives customers.'
The matching process
'My husband and I had been registered with Bury Shared Lives for a little while but due to our work commitments, it hadn't been possible to match us with a suitable customer.
In March 2020, Mo and Diane contacted us about a potential match - a 24 yr old young lady - Sarisa. We were given information about her and she about us. Unfortunately then the country went into lockdown and everything was paused. The team at Bury Shared Lives kept in contact with us regularly however, sending us a photo of Sarisa and keeping us updated with the situation.
Once out of lockdown we began to plan introductory visits. On the initial visit Sarisa was accompanied by her current carer and we built up gradually to her visiting us solo for tea, then dinner and tea, then eventually overnight stays. This gave us time to get to know each other and gave Sarisa the chance to meet our adult children and to get to know the area we live in. The visits were positive and although she said she felt excited about the thought of moving in with our family, Sarisa was also nervous and feeling sad about leaving her previous family.
How does everyone feel about the process?
Our daughter was very supportive of the decision and was excited to meet Sarisa. Our teenage son initially had some reservations, mainly around someone new moving into our house, however we felt by the end of the matching process that Sarisa was a good match for us and I hope we are for her.
As the time approached for Sarisa to leave her previous placement, we felt ready for the move to our family. Mo and Diane, however suggested that instead of her moving in straight away, a two week respite placement would be beneficial to give everyone more time to get to know each other further. This turned out to be true and the extra two weeks meant we could both plan for the move without being rushed and continue the introduction process.
Four weeks on, Sarisa feels like a part of our family and both our children have been welcoming and tolerant of the changes to the family dynamics. Bury Shared Lives supported us throughout the process which was at times scary, exciting and indeed life changing!'
Sarisa has kindly shared her feelings diary with us, written over her first month living with the Bliss family.
Click on the image above for her diary, or for an accessible version.