Respite care is such an important part of foster care, so I want to dedicate this blog post to respite care. What is respite care?
Definition #1: Planned or emergency temporary care provided to caregivers of a child or adult
Definition #2: A short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant
Both definitions are very appropriate for respite in foster care. Sometimes foster families just need a break, just like parents with biological kids. Let us be honest, we love our kids, but having a night out or a weekend away and have some alone time to perform some self-care is important in us being better parents. I miss Baby A when I don’t have her, but I use the time wisely to get caught up on things I need to do and relax! It is important to revive and replenish ourselves, so we are better able to take care of others. I think a lot of us are bad about self-care. I know I am. It is okay to ask for help.
The 2nd definition is more complicated but just as important if not more important. Many children in foster care have experienced severe trauma in their past. So many times I hear people say, “I want to foster a baby because they don’t come with trauma when they are so young” and while there may be less of a chance, it’s really crazy to hear some of the stories of children with behavioral issues at later ages from events that happened when they were a baby. Our brains are quite complicated! With this trauma comes a lot of behavioral and medical issues which can make parenting them even more difficult. Several kids are in multiple foster homes over very short amounts of time due to this. It breaks my heart and I have seen this firsthand with some of the respite I have provided. What I can tell you is that these kids are tremendous, smart, loving and so resilient, but they are also so exhausting and emotionally and physically draining.
I asked a good friend of mine whom I have gotten to know because I provide respite for her to write me a couple of sentences of what respite means to her and how it helps her. She wrote the following:
“Help. Please. Foster parenting a child with trauma (which is every kid in the system) is not the same as parenting a biological child. With your own children, you know when a storm is coming, you prepare for it and weather it, and then clean up in the aftermath and move on. With a foster child, especially an older one, you do not know when that storm will hit or how to weather it and not make it worse. If that child is in crisis, there will be no time to clean up afterwards before the next storm hits. When this happens, both the parents and the child need a break to catch their breath and reset.
As a single mom, it can be tough to run the household, work, and parent, tend to the child’s needs and one’s own– even under the best of circumstances. When crises occur, it is easy to take care of the most urgent needs and forgo one’s own needs. When my kid is in respite care, I can reset and be restored and become more human. This allows me to love my kid better and more long-term. I always knew that “it takes a village.” I am especially convinced of this for foster children. They need loving, safe people who can give all of themselves, if even for a day. Most of them have never experienced this kind of attention and care.”
Why do I tell you all of this? Because if you have been intrigued by the idea of becoming a foster family or say “I would love to but I could never give them back” or maybe it doesn’t fit into your day to day lifestyle, but you want to somehow be able to participate, you can become certified and be a respite foster family and only do respite for other foster families when they need it. You may only get 2-3 calls per year, but I can assure you that those 2-3 families would all be incredibly grateful for the break! It allows them to relax for a weekend, attend a wedding without having to worry about a child acting out, go on a vacation outside of the country, attend a funeral, whatever the case may be and know that their foster child or children are going to be in great hands while they are gone and they don’t need to worry. It may not seem like a lot of time or a large commitment to you, but you can be giving another foster family the break they need so badly to allow them to continue to provide a home for foster kids for years to come.
If you have any questions about respite care, send me a message! I would love to chat more!