Being a foster parent often means full calendars and tight schedules, leaving little time for personal breaks and self-care. With our own kids, we can call Grandma or hire a teenage babysitter for the night. With foster kids, getting away for an evening or weekend can be a bit more difficult because the kids require supervision by a certified respite provider. Not much different than babysitting, respite care is just a fancy way of saying giving a break to caregivers. For those not able to commit to full-time foster parenting, being a respite provider is a great way to get involved with foster children on an as-needed basis.
If you have a desire to help foster kids but are unable to make the commitment to full-time foster care, providing respite care might be the perfect way to get involved. The process to become a foster parent typically takes about 4 months. The respite care application process is shorter, taking only about 2 months to complete. There are fewer requirements and training hours are minimal but the impact you will have on foster families will be significant. Imagine giving a foster parent the gift of silence or coffee with a friend. As all parents know, taking care of oneself is critical to taking care of others. If mom or dad is stressed, unrested, or overwhelmed she/he is good to nobody.
All parents are at risk of breaking or reaching the end of their rope from time to time. No matter if you have toddlers, tweens or teens, taking a break before things spiral out of control is important for everyone in a family. Sometimes parents need a break just to spend quality time together. Foster parents can look forward to respite care as it is typically scheduled in advance, working with the availability of the respite provider. It is up to both parties to decide on days, times, and location. Using respite care on a regular basis allows for dependable relationships to be formed. It is particularly important for the children to have consistent care because it allows them to develop a healthy relationship with the provider and look forward to time spent together.
Respite care is typically provided in the home of the respite provider. This allows for the foster parents to remain in their home to enjoy quiet time, take care of appointments, or work on a small project they can't seem to get to without interruption. Respite can be for a few hours or a weekend, whatever foster parents feel they need to recharge their batteries. While many respite providers plan activities such as outings to a park, community pool, movie theater or local restaurant others may prepare a child's favorite food or watch a new movie with popcorn. It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to get a break from their foster parents and enjoy different interactions and surroundings.
As much as foster parents need a break from their kiddos, kids also need some time away from their foster parents. Having a consistent respite provider allows the kids to build a relationship with another stable, trusted adult. Many foster children look forward to sleeping over at a respite home and getting away from normal routines of foster family life. Much like biological kids enjoying a night with a babysitter, foster kids enjoy a change of scenery as well.
Respite providers are not required to have a designated bedroom for foster kids. Having kids sleep on the couch, futon or inflatable mattress is okay, as long as the child is comfortable and safe.
CCR strongly supports self-care by generously giving all of our foster parents paid respite time. Each child placed in the home receives two respite days per month and a one week vacation annually. For example, if there are two foster children going to respite for the weekend, Saturday morning through Sunday late afternoon, CCR will pay the respite provider for two full days of respite for each child. If a respite provider cares for a child for an afternoon, CCR will pay the provider for a half-day of respite. Foster families are not responsible for payment to their respite providers unless they use more than the time given by CCR.
We did not meet the qualifications to be foster parents so we chose to provide respite care for a family near our home town.
When Tim and Karen first considered becoming foster parents they were unable to meet the requirement of a flexible schedule. Both worked full-time and had very little flexibility with their employers. Tim traveled occasionally with his job and that meant not being present with foster kids. Fostering full-time just wasn't compatible with their lifestyle. They were disappointed at first but upon learning that they could get involved in another very important way they were eager to learn more. They knew there was a need for more foster homes in Wisconsin but never heard of respite care or what it meant for foster parents. Find many foster care answers here.
Ultimately the Wisconsin couple felt it was something that made sense for them. They wanted to develop relationships with foster kids and help those who were dedicating their lives to foster care. Within 2 short months, they were certified to provide respite care. Tim and Karen have been able to help a family near them with their two foster sons, ages 10 and 13. They say it is just the right amount of time to give each month and they are happy to be getting to know the boys more each visit.
While fostering may not be for everyone, being a respite provider may be perfect for you. Please give us a call to learn if there is a family near you in need of a respite resource.