Foster parents will tell you that although the work they do carries great rewards, it can also be exhausting—physically and emotionally. Children are taken from their homes and placed into foster care because of neglect or abuse, so, naturally they are traumatized to various extents. They need specialized loving and caring. They need parents who will help them build trust again and who will give them a safety net. This means a lot of effort is required of foster parents.
Enter respite care, or short-term foster parents. These are those angels who focus on offering relief for short periods of time to full-time foster parents. They also serve to help in emergency situations when a newly removed child is waiting for a placement. Respite care gives foster parents an opportunity to get away for a weekend, or even just hours, if need be. Sometimes all a foster parent needs to recharge batteries is a couple of days of R&R.
Dr. John DeGarmo and his wife have been fostering kids for 13 years. In his YouTube video, Respite Care and Foster Parenting, he talks about the effects of foster parenting on a marriage. An opportunity to escape that stress, if only for a few days, can be revitalizing and invigorating!
How does a foster parent schedule respite care? And how will your foster children react to respite care? It’s all in the planning. Contact the agency through which you are licensed. Plan the respite time as far ahead of the date as possible. This gives you an opportunity to talk with your foster children and prepare them for the time away.
Most likely, your foster children will be spending the days away with other foster children who may already be friends, or could become fast friends during the time. Many foster parents schedule regular interaction with other foster families so the kids can get to know each other anyway. Because all sets of foster parents in this group are licensed, the respite care can come in the form of “trading babysitting.” But be sure that the agency is involved in the planning and executing of your respite time.
Plan and pack well for your foster children. Do they have any appointments during that time? What about visits? Be sure to pack the favorite stuffed animal or other comfort items.
When properly planned, respite care can be a relief not only for foster parents, but for the children as well. Time away, when productive and fun, can be wonderful all around!