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Fostering Hope

What Can I Do to Help? Part 5: Respite Care

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Feb 10, 2014 by fosteringhope

As veteran foster care providers, some of the hardest decisions my wife and I have had to make involved the issue of respite care, namely should we or shouldn’t we use it. “Slow down!” you may be thinking! “What exactly is respite care and why is it necessary?”

Sometimes during the course of fostering a child, a circumstance arises which necessitates respite care for the foster family. Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for foster youth. The length of respite care could be as short as a day or as long as two weeks. Respite care is provided by either another licensed foster family or a family specifically approved to provide respite care. An approved respite care family could be approved to care for just one particular child, all foster children from just one particular family, or any foster child currently in the state foster care system.

When is respite care necessary? Several scenarios could create a need for respite care. Planned respite care is required when a family foresees a period of time when the foster child will need such temporary care. For example, in some circumstances, a foster child is unable to go with his foster family on out-of-state vacations. Another example is a foster parent who develops a medical need that requires a period of convalescence. Or, sometimes, foster families simply need a short term break. This is especially true for families who are fostering a child with special needs. Such respite care is usually for a weekend and is very flexible based on the availability of the respite care provider. In contrast with planned respite care, crisis or emergency respite care occurs when something unusual and unexpected takes place-such as a death in the immediate family.

In such cases, whether planned or emergency, where does the foster child stay? Since they are in state care, they cannot simply be left with a friend or family member-no matter how safe and nurturing they may be. Foster children can only be left with a state approved family. For the caring and committed foster family who genuinely loves their foster child, this can lead to a great conundrum. What kind of family will my foster child be placed with? Will they really provide safe, nurturing care? What affect will it have on my foster child? Often, the answers to these questions are too uncertain leading foster families to forgo respite care as a viable option.

So, if you are looking for a way to bless foster youth and those who care for them, consider respite care. The best respite care is provided by someone the child already knows and loves. So, if you are close to family or friends who are foster families, find out if they could use you as a respite care option. Some foster families lack close family and friends to provide such care. One of our visions at Fostering Hope is to develop a network of Christian respite care providers willing to provide respite care for other Christian foster families in their respective state. We would love to help centralize and facilitate such a data base.

So how do you go about becoming a respite care provider? Requirements vary depending on the type of respite care you are providing and the state in which you live. You can check out the various requirements at your local state agency. Links can be found to the agency for each New England state in our resource section.

May God raise up a community of selfless respite care providers for the good of foster youth throughout New England.

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