It’s on your to-do list.
One day you want to help children in foster care. As soon as your life slows down, the kids get a little older, and your schedule opens up, you’ll sign up to be a foster parent. It’s not the right time today. In the future, you’ll have more time to help a foster child.
It’s true that not everyone can be a full-time foster parent. It’s a lot to ask any person. Foster care’s a huge commitment and it’s okay if it doesn’t work for you today. But there’s another way to support a foster child. And it doesn’t mean unexpected calls from a social worker at all hours of the night.
You don’t have to have your life completely turned upside down to take in a child in need. The best part of it all is you can actually decide and schedule when you care for a foster child.
There’s a way to help a foster child without all the unpredictability, full-time commitment, and uncertainty that comes with full-time foster care. It’s called respite care and you would be perfect for it.
What is respite care?
Respite care is short-term, temporary relief for a foster child’s primary caregivers. This prearranged respite can be for a few hours, days, or weeks depending on the need.
As a respite provider, you get to love and care for a foster child. At the same time give the foster family a break and breather from the responsibilities that come with full-time foster care. You get to be the “weekend getaway” for the foster child.
We all need a break from the grind of life. You need a break from the demands of your job, your family, and your responsibilities. Imagine if someone said to you, “I would love to care for your responsibilities for a weekend. This way you have a chance to rest and reenergize.” Can you even imagine how that would feel?
With respite care, you get to be a hero to the foster family. You get to say, “Let me take that little one for a week. I’ll carry the responsibility and you can rest.” And you know what you get to do with that foster child while he’s in your care? Love him, keep him safe, and invest in his wellbeing.
That’s it. How awesome is that?
You don’t have to take him to visits. You don’t have to worry about counseling and therapy appointments. Or calls from the social worker. All you have to do is love and care for a child that desperately needs more adults in his life doing just that. Respite care isn’t only a break for a foster family. It’s another home that shows love, compassion, empathy, and support to a child in need.
5 Reasons Why Respite Care is So Important
1. You provide stability for the foster child.
Kids in foster care already struggle with instability. They’ve been taken from one home, put in another, and possibly moved around a few times between.
The impact that instability has on any child is huge. It can affect their mental health and emotional well-being. Not to mention the fact it makes it so much harder for these kids to form healthy relationships down the road.
Respite care supports a foster family so the child can stay in their home for a longer period of time. You also teach the child how to build other positive attachments and relationships. There’s no such thing as too many adults loving and nurturing a child. Respite care providers partner with the foster parents for long-term success.
2. You support the foster parent and family from burnout
You’ve been there. When you can’t do one more meeting, one more project, one more thing. You’re running on fumes and it’s pretty obvious to everyone around you. Perhaps you’ve been there in your own parenting journey. As much as you love your child, you need a break or you might break. That’s okay and it’s normal.
Foster parents get there too, and sometimes quicker than normal. Respite keeps foster parents from that all too familiar feeling of burnout.
When a foster parent burns out the child moves into another home. And has to go through the attachment process all over again. While it’s no one’s fault when this happens, this is avoidable with a little break once in a while.
3. You are one more positive role model in the foster child’s life
Kids turn into what they see around them and are taught to believe in. Role models have the power to motivate you to do or believe in something. A foster child can never have too many positive role models. They need people who show them good behavior and how to make wise choices.
As a respite foster parent, you’re an active role model in this child’s life. And this isn’t a role you, the foster parents, or any other adult in this child’s life should take lightly. Chances are pretty good this child has few, if any, positive role models in her life. A foster parent needs your help to show this child how to love and respect others, but also love and respect herself.
4. You help a child learn to trust other adults
Can you imagine how many times an adult has let down a foster child? Every time a parent promises to stay clean and doesn’t. Whenever a dad says he will be at the game to watch his kid play soccer but never shows up. A baby that cries and cries and is never comforted by her mother. These all impact a child’s ability to trust an adult.
A child feels rejected when they lose their confidence in their primary caregiver. This rejection has long-term effects. These effects can carry over into adulthood if they don’t learn how to trust and connect with adults.
Foster parents play a huge role in teaching a child how to trust again. And so do you as a respite provider.
A foster parent places the child in your care and you reassure the child that the foster parent will return. The child learns to trust you, and in turn, trust the foster parent. The more they learn to trust, the more they can attach, and that attachment creates a sense of stability.
5. You give the foster family a chance to reconnect
I’ll never forget the weekends we had respite care. I didn’t realize how much my kids needed that small break and a reminder we are still their parents too. My kids very much loved our foster child. But they also needed to have some stability within our family structure. Respite care was a gift to my children, as much as it was a break for me and my spouse as the foster parents.
A foster family never wants their foster child to feel left out, or not included in a family event. Respite made it possible for our foster child to have a fun weekend. And we didn’t have to feel guilty for needing some family time. It was a win-win for all.
Each month we would say to our foster child, “You get to spend the weekend with the Johnson family again. They just love you so much and can’t wait to see you!” The respite was a positive experience for our foster child, which made it an even bigger gift to us as a family.
Respite care for a foster child is a necessary part of the foster care system. We need respite providers to partner with full-time foster parents. And most of it, it allows the child to stay with the family until a permanent placement comes.
Are you ready to sign up yet? Becoming a respite foster parent requires a little effort on your part. But it’s worth it to support a foster child and foster family who needs you.
It’s easy for you to become a respite provider by meeting these requirements:
- Married or single, but at least 21 years of age.
- Don’t need to rely on foster care payments for income.
- Use discipline methods that don’t include physical punishment.
- Have a room available for the child in your care.
- Complete the following training courses:
- First Aid/CPR
- Blood Borne Pathogens
- Licensing Orientation
- Pre-service Training
The process might seem a little daunting at the moment. The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families will answer all your questions.
If you can’t be a fully committed foster family, this is the biggest gift you can give a child in need-stability in times of uncertainty. Respite care providers make it possible for a foster family to keep going, even when they feel exhausted, overwhelmed, unqualified, and worn out.
Don’t think you have to be a full-time foster parent to help a foster child. Become a respite care provider and make a difference in so many lives. You are perfect for the job.
Get all the information you need to begin this process by emailing us at (insert an email address or website or something).
Change a life today and become a respite care provider.