Becoming a full-time foster family is both a very fulfilling and a challenging endeavor. The demands of foster parents increase substantially as they welcome foster children affected by trauma into their home and begin providing them with the care, advocacy, and support, that they need in a safe family environment. Their daily demands become significantly higher as in-home visits, doctor and therapist appointments, court hearings, and visits with biological parents get added to their regular daily routine. Without time specifically set aside for self-care, rest, and breaks burnout of foster parents is inevitable.
To help prevent foster parents from burning out and to encourage rejuvenation they are offered respite care every month.
Respite care is an opportunity for respite foster families to give full-time foster parents a short break, typically over a weekend. Respite care not only benefits the foster parents as it gives them a much-needed time of rest and relief, but it also benefits foster children by giving them a break from their normal routine, along with opportunities to try new activities and build friendships with children in the respite family. Respite care promotes stability in placements and adds to the foster families and foster children’s support system.
We have many wonderful respite families licensed through our agency who have been providing full-time foster families with breaks and foster children with a fun and restful time away from home.
Today we want to highlight a foster mom and respite provider, Michelle. Michelle has been a respite provider with our agency for 9 years. When late Pastor Wendell Smith shared his vision at City Church (now Churchome) for helping foster children and building a cottage community specifically for foster families and asked for church members to pray about what part they would play in making a difference in the community Michelle prayed about it and with support from her daughters, and God’s leading she decided to take the first step of becoming a licensed foster parent. Michelle typically provides respite care for children 1-3 weekends each month and has been a vital member to our team of foster families.
Q & R with Michelle.
- What has your experience been like being a respite provider?
It has been an incredible journey! Most of the time children are so delighted to come to my home for respite. They are happy to be welcomed and have a place to belong and they get to experience doing something a little different in my home and get used to a different family dynamic and structure for a few days. They usually enjoy the little break. When I have the same child come to me for respite every month, I get a better perspective of watching them grow from month to month. It’s wonderful to see the growth that takes place as they get adjusted in their new foster family placement and receive the support and care that they need in a safe home.
Usually when I meet a foster child for the first time, I try to help them feel welcome in the home right away. I spend some one on one time playing time with them. I show them around the home and where they will sleep. I explain where their belongings go. I typically try to keep it low-key and give them time to get comfortable. The usually warm up pretty quickly.
- What are some highlights/lowlights of being a respite provider?
A lowlight is when after providing respite care for a child a few times they move on to a new placement and no longer have respite care with me, so I don’t know how they are doing from that point on.
A highlight is that I really know that Jesus blessed my home with his peace. Most children that come for respite sleep for 12 hours and rest up a lot during the weekend. My home is a place where they can let down their guard and take in what they need.
I enjoy providing children with new opportunities to participate in activities they don’t usually do. I take children to fun outings such as the zoo and water park. They love the chance to do something adventurous and try something new. I have learned that they don’t always need big, exciting plans to have a fun time. Usually they are looking for something calm and simple to do, not something extravagant. They want to slow down and have quality time playing. Often, we watch movies, bake cookies, have lemonade stands, catch frogs, and invite friends over from the neighborhood to play with. It’s a blessing to live at the Rose Hill Cottages. Foster children in respite care with me get a chance to make new friends that they look forward to spending time with the next time they come for respite care.
When I have a child for respite care two times in a row I get a window into watching God heal them and see things that were overwhelming to them in the beginning of placement no longer be overwhelming to them. I see growth and healing take place right before my eyes. As they progress, and I get to witness how God works something out in their life it is so reassuring to see them getting to where they need to be. It’s also amazing, when children feel safe, they start confiding with me about things that have hurt them and I have an opportunity to encourage them. When foster parents drop the foster child off for respite care I ask them what areas the child has been having more challenges in recently and I try to support them in that area during their time with me.
- How have you benefited from being a respite care provider through CMCPA?
I have always felt support from the agency. Some of the best support I received was in my own parenting skills. When I got to a place that was difficult and I didn’t know the best way to help a child any further I reached out to the agency and they gave me helpful tips, techniques to try, and tools to use.
It has also been wonderful to be at the cottages and feel the support from other foster families and have access to the resources available like monthly Children’s Activities and Foster Parent Trainings. I’m blessed to have a built-in community and family connections with other children and families in the community.
- What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a respite provider or full-time foster family?
I would encourage them to step out and start doing whatever the next step is. Start filling out the licensing paperwork and attending trainings. If God puts it on your heart to do it, don’t put it off. Just start taking the first steps necessary and don’t get discouraged by all of the paperwork and steps required to become a foster parent. It may seem daunting at first, but you will be able to do it.
There is a great need of more full-time foster families in our community. If you are interested in learning more about how you can become a licensed foster family with CMCPA please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to have you join our team of wonderful foster families!