If you’re a mom, have you ever needed a break?! Ever packed the kids up for a weekend at Grandma & Grandpa’s to get away for a bit with your husband, or to have a stay-cation at home without all the NOISE?
What if this were NOT an option? What if not only were this not an option but additionally you are parenting kids with special medical, emotional, or behavioral needs? What if these kids were placed in your care with barely a moments notice and your life has been weeks or months of chaotic adjustment, slowly draining your cup or perhaps your cup was left empty long ago as you poured out all you had to these kids from hard places, for their healing, only to lose yourself.
This is the reality for many foster families. And it is a HARD reality. A lonely reality. An “I-cannot-do-this-one-more-hour” reality.
There are simply not enough respite homes. A respite home gives the children’s original foster family a bit of a break—a respite. This lessens the chance of caregiver burnout and of disruptions (removals of foster children from their current foster home to a new foster home). There is a reason nearly 50% of foster families quit within their first year of fostering– lack of support!
Every family, fostering or not, needs a village. For foster families this becomes quite challenging as friends and family can only provide respite if they have gone through the necessary steps to become licensed respite providers. In our state, any childcare relief must be approved by the state or agency if the childcare need is >23 hours or on a consistent basis. It also cannot be in another state (if Grandma and Grandpa live across state lines they will not be approved to provide respite).
Case in point…. Earlier this month we provided respite for my friend’s 4 year old foster daughter while they went on a week long, WELL-DESERVED, anniversary getaway. They have a total of 5 children, all under the age of 8 — 3 of them biological, and 2 of them foster loves. Their biological children could stay with the in-laws but their foster children could NOT as the in-laws live across state lines (just barely!). SO, this left our friends in a search to find a respite approved home for the other 2 in foster care. Needless to say, they had to make 3 different stops, at 3 different homes, to drop off kids before heading to the airport– to the in-laws across state lines, and 2 different foster homes-who both also had additional foster and biological kids in their care. Talk about a stressful start to a trip.
If we had more great respite families, foster families wouldn’t feel so stressed and guilt ridden leaving their kiddos to get some much deserved rejuvenation time. If more people invested in foster families, providing them with days of relief, maybe the turnover/burnout rate would not be so high. And maybe the amount of disruptions to kids in care would be far less as families could cope with the stress much better having had some times of relief scattered throughout.
Are you interested in helping a child in need, but not sure you can devote yourself full-time to foster care parenting? Maybe respite care would be perfect for you! Could you devote a few weekends (or weeks) a year to support kids in care and their foster families? Imagine a world where foster families were encouraged to take breaks, where respite families were begging to get a chance to invest in their foster children!! This is exactly what this system needs. And what these kids deserve… families who are eager to step up for them and parental figures who are not so burnt out that they are struggling to cope with the challenges that kids in hard places are working through. Are you willing to step up??? If so, call your state or local agency (Google for their number or comment below and I can get you it!).
When the girls want to have a sleepover but one wants the overhead lights on & the other likes it dark (respite sleeping arrangement creativity):
** Our kids, ages 5 and 3, had the time of their lives that week with their new 4 year old friend… so not only could you help a child in foster care, but your own children may make a new friend : )
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Galatians 6:2- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Hebrews 13:16- “Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”