In February of this year Chase and I decided to look into respite and foster care. Baby steps are sometimes a good thing when you are trying something new so we decided to get our respite license first. The process took several months. We had to wait until March for our mandatory meeting. Whenever you start respite or foster care you first have to go to meetings. The meetings are mandatory because they teach you so many things you never thought you would need to know. How the system works, why it works, what you need to do, what should you not do, how you can help a foster child, how you can help a foster family if you are respite. There are so many ways to help and encourage the many families and children, it’s amazing!
After the meetings it took several months for all of our background checks, screenings, and our interview before we received our license for respite care. For those of you who are new to this idea of respite care in the foster system, it basically means providing respite for the foster family. If you provide respite care, then you are supporting the foster families who pour their lives into children every day. If you have ever been a parent you know this can be the most exhausting rewarding job in the world. And sometimes a break makes you realize exactly why you pour your life into these little ones. And a break is what a respite parent gives a foster parent. It’s a beautiful thing. A respite provider can be a parent, a sister, a friend, or a neighbor. Sometimes it’s someone you may know through others. But the respite provider has to be approved by the state so it can’t just be your parent unless your parent decides to be licensed for respite.
Respite is so many things. It is giving a couple a weekend break or a date night. It is getting to know a beautiful child for one night or one week. It is knowing this child and loving them for who they are. It is welcoming a child into your family and keeping them safe. It is knowing how to pray specifically for this child and for the foster family and maybe even the biological family! It is heart changing because you realize this world does not revolve around you and your family It is heart breaking because you realize you cannot save every child you meet. It is heart growing because you realize you can still make a difference by being there, loving this child, and constantly praying for them. What respite is not, is it’s not scary. It is so amazing.
Several people have told me they couldn’t do this. Yes you can. All you have to do is be willing to open your heart and your family to one or two little children for a short time. Respite can be for as short as a half day and up to 14 days. You know exactly how long you will have the child. You have the ability to list what ages and gender you have room for. You have the option to say yes or no when a foster family asks. You will not be roped into anything you don’t want to do.
We have only had our license for about 6 weeks now, and I have heard so many comments from many people. One of the main ones is: Why would a foster family need respite? There are so many varied answers to this.
~Sometimes the foster family planned their vacation before the foster children were placed with them and they can’t change their plans to accommodate.
~Sometimes the foster children can’t go on the vacation for some reason or another and need to stay in the area.
~Sometimes the foster parents just want a date day, date night, or even a date weekend!
I will leave you with a scenario of why respite is so important to a foster care family.
Imagine you are painting your whole house and you have been working on it all day. It’s just you and your spouse working to get the whole house painted and you are exhausted. Would you ever think to go across the street to a neighbor at the end of the day and ask them for help? Honestly, I wouldn’t. It’s my job, I started it, I’m going to do it.
This is how a foster family sees their job as a foster parent.
But what if your neighbor came up to your door around 5pm and said to you, “Hey! I noticed you were painting! I am actually really good at painting trim and I would love to help you out while you guys take a break to eat.” Would you say no? I wouldn’t! I would be so relieved. I might even feel like painting again once I ate because I knew I had help.
And this is how the respite provider helps the foster parent. We help shoulder the amazing task of loving all these kids. We are there to ask, “do you need a break? I can do this, grab something to eat.” It’s amazing what we can all do if we work together.
There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the US. Yet there are only about 184,000 families who are licensed in foster care. Look at those numbers again. There are just not enough families to love all these kids. Around 1/4 of the children in foster care are adoptable. That is about 100,000 children in our country that need families. We need to be concerned for the children that are living right here, right in your own city and in your own county. And there are so many ways you can help. If you don’t feel the call to foster, there are so many ways we can support foster families in our community so they don’t have to shoulder this responsibility all on their own. You can donate items like children’s clothes and toys or money to places that support foster families, your church can host foster family date nights, fun nights, or events that support foster families, you could provide respite care for foster families in your community, and you could pray for the families who open not only their homes to children but their hearts, and pray for the children to find a loving stable family to call their own.